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Rutgers players describe how Imus' remarks hurt

Story Highlights

• Women's basketball team will meet with Don Imus
• Rutgers team captain: "We'd just like to express our great hurt"
• Bigelow Tea and Staples pull sponsorship from Imus' show
MSNBC and CBS Radio will suspend Imus for two weeks
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PISCATAWAY, New Jersey (CNN) -- Don Imus "has stolen a moment of pure grace from us," the captain of the Rutgers women's basketball team said Tuesday, responding to the uproar over the radio host's description of the players as "nappy-headed hos."

Imus on Monday was suspended for two weeks, and on Tuesday two advertisers said they were pulling their sponsorship to protest his remarks.

Essence Carson and other players spoke out at a news conference in their first public statements since Imus' inflammatory remarks last week.

"I would like to express our team's great hurt, anger and disgust toward the words of Mr. Don Imus," Carson said. "We are highly angered at his remarks but deeply saddened with the racial characterization they entailed." (Watch as Carson says the issue is "about more than a game of basketball" Video)

Imus made the comments on his show Wednesday after the underdog team lost the NCAA women's title to the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers. He apologized on Friday and Monday before CBS Radio and MSNBC suspended him for two weeks.

Other players echoed Carson's reaction, saying Imus' insulting words and the resulting controversy overshadowed their achievements. (Players talk of hurt, seeking understanding)

"Our moment was taken away -- our moment to celebrate our success, our moment to realize how far we had come, both on and off the court, as young women," said sophomore forward Heather Zurich. "We were stripped of this moment by degrading comments made by Mr. Imus last Wednesday. What hurts the most about this situation is that Mr. Imus knows not one of us personally."

Carson said that she and her fellow players will meet privately with Imus in the near future.

"We just hope to come to some type of understanding of what the remarks really entailed, his reasons why they were said," Carson said.

"And we'd just like to express our great hurt, the sadness that he has brought to us."

Several players said they would welcome the chance for a face-to-face meeting with Imus.

"I would like to speak to him personally and ... ask him, after you've met me personally, do you still feel in this category that I'm still a 'ho' as a woman and as a black, African-American woman at that?" said Kia Vaughn, a sophomore center.

"I achieve a lot, and unless they have given this name of 'ho' a new definition, then that is not what I am."

Carson said, "We haven't personally received an apology. And personally, if someone were to apologize to me, I would feel better if I heard from them themselves. Reading it in a newspaper or watching on television or hearing it on radio doesn't serve any justice to what he said."

Coach C. Vivian Stringer praised the accomplishments and character of the team members, five of whom are freshmen. (Coach builds winners, despite adversity)

"Before you are valedictorians of their class, future doctors, musical prodigies, and yes, even Girl Scouts," she said. "They are young ladies of class, distinction, they are articulate, they are brilliant, they are gifted. They are God's representatives in every sense of the word." Stringer described the team's hard work to bounce back from defeats early in the season.

"Ultimately, they ended up playing for the national championship," she said. "No one believed in them but them." (Read Stringer's complete comments)

Suspension doesn't satisfy critics

Critics of Imus weren't swayed by the shock jock's apology or MSNBC and CBS Radio's decisions to suspend him after his comments on the Rutgers team.

Imus tried to stem the backlash from his comments by appearing on the Rev. Al Sharpton's syndicated radio show Monday, where he said there was no excuse for his remark. "I wish I hadn't said it. I'm sorry I said it," Imus said. (What's new about the Imus controversy?)

Sharpton was not placated by Imus' apology, telling CNN's Paula Zahn that the radio host's two-week suspension was merely "a baby step in the right direction."

"I think to say that his statements were racist, as they've said, then that means they should not allow him to come back," he said.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and National Association of Black Journalists have joined the former Democratic presidential hopeful in his call for Imus' ouster. The SCLC has asked the Federal Communications Commission to enter the fray.

There was outrage not just about the racist implications but also about the sexist nature of Imus' remarks.

"There's no question that this was so wrong on so many levels: racist, sexist, misogynistic," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. (Watch how some say "sorry" isn't enough Video)

However, not everyone believes Imus' remarks should earn him the boot.

Syndicated columnist Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune said the suspension was sufficient in his view.

"I personally think that's enough. That's more than he has ever gotten before," said Page. "I think this gives a sound warning because it hits him in the pocketbook, although I am sure it will just help his ratings."

Advertisers pull out

MSNBC and CBS Radio, which owns New York's sports-talk station WFAN, announced they were suspending Imus for two weeks, beginning Monday.

MSNBC's "future relationship" with Imus depends on "his ability to live up to his word," according to a statement from NBC News. The cable channel simulcasts a television version of Imus' radio show.

"His dedication -- in his words -- to change the discourse on his program moving forward has confirmed for us that this action is appropriate," the statement said. (Watch Imus on Sharpton's show Video)

Shortly afterward, CBS announced plans to suspend its broadcast of Imus' radio program for the same two weeks.

Meanwhile, the office-supply chain Staples and Bigelow Tea Company, both recent advertisers on Imus' show, said Tuesday they were pulling their sponsorship to protest his remarks.

"While Bigelow Tea has been an advertiser on the 'Imus in the Morning show,' the company does not condone or support in any way the unacceptable comments made by Imus with regard to the Rutgers University women's basketball team," Cindi Bigelow, the company's co-president, said in a statement. "Bigelow Tea is a family company that prides itself on honoring and respecting all individuals."

Bigelow added that the company does support Imus' efforts on behalf of children with terminal illnesses, against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and other causes.

But, she said, "We are deeply saddened by his remarks and his comments in no way represent the views of our family or the Bigelow Tea Company. This unfortunate incident has put our future sponsorship in jeopardy."


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