- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer said today the team had accepted radio host Don Imus’ apology. She said he deserves a chance to move on but hopes the furor his racist and sexist insult caused will be a catalyst for change.

“We, the Rutgers University Scarlet Knight basketball team, accept — accept — Mr. Imus’ apology, and we are in the process of forgiving,” Miss Stringer read from a team statement a day after the women met personally with Mr. Imus and his wife.

“We still find his statements to be unacceptable, and this is an experience that we will never forget,” she said.

The team had just played for the National Collegiate Athletic Association national championship and lost when Mr. Imus called the players “nappy-headed hos” on his nationally syndicated radio show. The statement outraged listeners and set off a national debate about taste and tolerance. It also led to his firing yesterday by CBS.

“These comments are indicative of greater ills in our culture,” Miss Stringer said. “It is not just Mr. Imus, and we hope that this will be … a catalyst for change. Let us continue to work hard together to make this world a better place.”

Mr. Imus was in the middle of a two-day radio fundraiser for children’s charities when he was dropped by CBS. His wife took over the show today and also talked about the meeting with the Rutgers players.

“They gave us the opportunity to listen to what they had to say and why they’re hurting and how awful this is,” author Deirdre Imus said.

“He feels awful,” she said of her husband. “He asked them, ‘I want to know the pain I caused, and I want to know how to fix this and change this.’”

Mrs. Imus also said the Rutgers players have been receiving hate e-mail, and she demanded that it stop. She told listeners, “If you must send e-mail, send it to my husband,” not the team.

“I have to say that these women are unbelievably courageous and beautiful women,” she said.

Miss Stringer declined to discuss the hate mail today. Rutgers team spokeswoman Stacey Brann said the team had received “two or three e-mails” but also had received “over 600 wonderful e-mails.”

The team’s goal was never to get Mr. Imus fired, Miss Stringer said. “It’s sad for anyone to lose their job,” she added.

Mr. Imus apologized on the air late last week and also tried to explain himself to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio audience, appearing alternately contrite and combative. Nevertheless, many of his advertisers bailed in disgust, particularly after the Rutgers women spoke publicly of their hurt.

A week after the remark, MSNBC said on Wednesday that it would no longer televise the show. CBS fired Mr. Imus yesterday from the radio show he has hosted for nearly 30 years.

“He has flourished in a culture that permits a certain level of objectionable expression that hurts and demeans a wide range of people,” CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said in a memo to his staff.

Mr. Sharpton today praised Mr. Moonves’ decision and said it was time to change the culture of publicly degrading other people. “I think we’ve got to really use this to really stop this across the board,” he told CBS’ “The Early Show.”

Some Imus fans, however, considered the radio host’s punishment too harsh.

Mike Francesa, whose WFAN sports show with partner Chris Russo is considered a possible successor to “Imus in the Morning,” said he was embarrassed by the company. “I’m embarrassed by their decision. It shows, really, the worst lack of taste I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Losing Mr. Imus will be a financial hit to CBS Radio, which also suffered when Howard Stern left for satellite radio. The program earns about $15 million in annual revenue for CBS, which owns Mr. Imus’ home radio station WFAN-AM and manages Westwood One, the company that syndicates the show nationally for WFAN.

The show’s charity fundraiser had raised more than $1.3 million yesterday before Mr. Imus learned that he had lost his job. The total grew today to more than $2.3 million for Tomorrows Children’s Fund for children with cancer and serious blood disorders, CJ Foundation for SIDS, and the Imus Ranch for children with cancer, Mrs. Imus said. The annual event has raised more than $40 million since 1990.

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