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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Rutgers Women's Basketball Team Responds to Don Imus' Comments

Aired April 10, 2007 - 10:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
ALFRED EDMOND JR., RUTGERS UNIVERSITY ALUMNUS: Well, that's an important point to deal with, because this is not just about Imus and his values and what he meant to say. It's about MSNBC. It's about WFAN. It's about the organization and what they stand for, for both their audience, as well as their advertisers. They have a responsibility to communicate what is acceptable and what's not acceptable as well.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Alfred, do you believe that if he is not fired that advertisers should be targeted for protest?

EDMOND: If he is not fired, I think consumers should be mindful of those advertisers and the values that they're supporting, and that should influence their decision-making with regard to how they view those advertisers.

HARRIS: OK. Alfred, if you would, stick around. We'd love to hear your comments after the women's team and their coach hold this news conference, expected to come up in just a couple of minutes.

EDMOND: My pleasure.

HARRIS: OK. Thanks, Alfred.

And good morning, again, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. You're informed.

I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

Developments keep coming in to the NEWSROOM on Tuesday, April 10th.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Athletes from Rutgers University live just moments from now. The women respond to racially-charged remarks from syndicated radio host Don Imus.

HARRIS: DNA, dollars, and daddy. Who fathered Anna Nicole Smith's baby girl? We may learn the man's identity at a court hearing in the Bahamas today. A live report ahead.

COLLINS: It's all about surf, sun and sin. Evangelicals hit the beach to save spring breakers from sex. Soul patrol, in the NEWSROOM.

Radio shock-jock Don Imus, his words lead to action and even more anger. His two-week suspension one of the headlines in a rapid-fire morning of developments. At any moment now we will be hearing from the college women he offended with racially-charged comments.

But first, we heard earlier from Imus himself in an interview on NBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I have a record of a relationship with the African-American community, whether Reverend Sharpton likes it or not. I'm a good and decent person, and I've been conducting a comedy show for 30 years.

I can come back -- will hopefully serve the suspension with dignity, and come back and create a dialogue. One of the things that we're going -- that we're going to do that we've been talking about for years.

MATT LAUER, "TODAY": Quickly if you can, Don. I'm running out of time.

IMUS: There ought to be a black person on this show every single day to add some perspective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Imus appeared yesterday on a radio show hosted by civil rights activist Al Sharpton. Imus apologized for his remarks, and Sharpton repeated his demands the radio host be fired.

Members of the Rutgers basketball team and their coach are due to hold a news conference right about now.

Jim Acosta is there on the New Jersey campus.

Jim, you've had an opportunity to be there for a little while. Any idea the overall feeling on campus at this point?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting. You're getting a sense of campus pride here. A lot of the folks here from the university, the students, the faculty, some of the boosters for the team, and it looks like maybe some family members of this team, are all gathered here, as well as the media, to listen to what the Scarlet Knights have to say about all of this.

We've heard from the pundits, we've heard from the politicians. We've heard from the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson as to what everybody thinks. We've heard Imus apologize over and over.

The only people we really haven't heard about, of any account in all of this, are the Scarlet Knights, the women's basketball team that was originally offended by that racial slur from Don Imus last Wednesday. And so, in just a few moments, as you mentioned -- they're testing the mic behind me -- we'll hear from this women's basketball team in a few moments.

COLLINS: Any indication as of yet, Jim -- don't want you to speculate, of course -- as to what they might say when they come to those microphones?

ACOSTA: Well, we're getting plenty of comments from everybody else here as to what should be said to Don Imus. But it will be interesting to see what they have to say.

I think a lot of people are urging these women -- and I don't think they need any urging -- to show their chins up here in all of this. And I think that's what we're going to see here.

From all accounts, this is a terrific team of young ladies who really surpassed a lot of expectations this season. They went all the way to the NCAA finals, played the Lady Vols, a team that has won now seven national championships. Rutgers wasn't expected to go that distance. And so they really brought a lot of pride to this university.

And I think what a lot of people here are hoping to see and hoping to hear from these women is that sense of pride here and how all of this, what Don Imus has said about them -- and obviously it's all terrible and wrong -- has not affected them. And they're just going to move on with their lives, finish school, and continue to play great basketball.

COLLINS: CNN's Jim acosta for us right there, where the press conference will be happening at any moment.

Jim, we'll come back to you just as soon as it starts. Thanks.

HARRIS: Well, you heard from him just a couple of minutes ago. Let's bring back Alfred Edmond, Jr. He is the editor-in-chief of "Black Enterprise," a magazine. He is also a Rutgers University alumnus.

Alfred, thanks for sticking around.

What I want to do if I could here is just play the entire chunk of sound that is at the center of this controversy. And then let's talk about it.

EDMOND: All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IMUS: So, I watched the basketball game last night between -- a little bit of Rutgers and Tennessee, the women's final.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Tennessee won last night -- seventh championship for Pat Summitt, I-Man. They beat Rutgers by 13 points.

IMUS: Some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some hard-core hos.

IMUS: That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm going tell you that now. Man, that's some -- woo. And the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute, you know, so, like -- kind of like -- I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Spike Lee thing.

IMUS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The jigaboos versus the wannabes -- that movie that he had.

IMUS: Yes. That was a tough...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Do the Right Thing".

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: All right. Alfred, once again, your thoughts?

EDMOND: It kind of brings an ugly new meaning to the term "color commentary," doesn't it?

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

EDMOND: Again, there's no logic. There's no -- I mean, he's not -- he agrees that there's no justification, whether it's humor -- and he said he was just trying to be funny -- for that kind of description of these young ladies.

HARRIS: All right. Hey, Alfred, let's do some work here. All right? Really, let's put in a little work here.

What are the stereotypes Don Imus feeds into, first of all, when he attaches this phraseology, "nappy-headed hos," to these black women?

EDMOND: Well, this is when we get into some sticky territory, because one of the things that we have known for decades is that much of what America decides is cool is what they adapt from black culture, whether you talk about the high five, whether you talk about the young men wearing do-rags of all races. And so, this is kind of a wakeup call to all of us, black and otherwise, to be more mindful of the imagery in the representation of African-Americans and people of other cultures in media, because it seeps into the fabric. It really does seep into the fabric.

Now, that is not a justification for Don Imus, who is old enough to know better, experienced enough as a media person to know better. But it does kind of send a wakeup call to all of us as Americans that there's humor and then there's really hurtful, disgusting language that is not funny that should never be used.

HARRIS: Can he say these things because he knows black folks say these things, use these words, to describe black folks? EDMOND: But he's a grown man. OK? I mean, that's almost like a peer pressure argument for someone who is old enough, you know, certainly to be a grandfather to my children.

And so, yes, is that true, are those cultural issues at play here? Yes. But you're not talking to somebody who is a novice in the media world.

You're talking about someone who has been doing this since the late 1960s. If he doesn't know, who would know?

And again, I'm not saying it should be all on Imus. You're talking about a media entity in WFAN and MSNBC that also bears some accountability for what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in the media marketplace.

HARRIS: Speaking of which, you know, he made the comment that blacks should be -- at least one black person should be on his show for balance every day. And he said it's something that he's had discussions about for years.

What does that say for you, that he's had this discussion for years about getting some black participation on his show and it hasn't happened?

EDMOND: I mean, what are we, idiots? I mean, you've had this discussion for years, but now you're in hot water and now you're going to make this happen.

And again, he talked about this great relationship he's had with the African-American community. I'm not saying that he doesn't have a good relationship with the African-American community. But apparently that relationship didn't result in you doing the right things before you got in hot water.

HARRIS: Yes.

EDMOND: That's when you -- you know, it's what you do when you're not in trouble that tells you who you really are, not when you're in trouble.

HARRIS: So, Alfred, we dealt a bit with the racial slur, "nappy- headed hos". What about the sexual slur, "hos"?

EDMOND: Well, he hit every -- every bad note you could hit. The racial slur is obviously terrible. But it's also, you know, an attack, an indictment on women in general, and black women in particular.

And you know, black women already get a raw deal in the media. So, you can't -- you can't go too far in terms of describing just how disgusting and reprehensible the comment was. And the idea that he did, it I wasn't thinking and I thought it was going to be funny, that's almost -- it's almost worse than saying he thought about it and he really had some logic behind it. HARRIS: And one last quick one because I think we're close to the start of the news conference at Rutgers. If he's not fired, what does this say about black power in this country, and powerful media interest not being as responsive as some would like to the calls from black power in the country?

EDMOND: I think it says far less about black people than it says about American media today, which we know has a glaring diversity problem, has a glaring lack of people of color in decision-making positions. Has a glaring lack of influence with regard to what gets on the media and what doesn't get on the media.

I don't think this is a referendum on the power of black people. I think this is a referendum for what's wrong with American media today.

HARRIS: How caught up were you as an alum with the women's story, the women's basketball story at Rutgers this season?

EDMOND: This is the first team, to my knowledge, that's ever competed for a national championship in any sport, as far as I know. So -- and now, let me say this. The women's basketball team at Rutgers is always a strong program. It was always a good program.

The new coach, Vivian Stringer -- well, she's not that new -- has really raised it to the next level. So they really are a title- contending team. And I think they serve notice to the national sports audience that Rutgers has arrived and they'll be there.

I mean, there were no seniors on this Knights basketball team. So, you know, I was very excited and caught up because it says something about the university and where it's headed as we move deeper into the 21st century.

HARRIS: How deeply will comments like this cut not only those women, but I'm thinking about young African -- I have a young girl -- young African-American girls who will hear these comments and wonder, what's this all about? Why the attack on me? Because it seems to me that an attack on these young women will be perceived by many as an attack on all African-American women and women in general.

EDMOND: Well, I'm a father of three daughters. So, again, it hits home in a lot of ways for me.

And what they saw was a group of women who did something extraordinary, who did something that's worthy of comment -- you know, compliment and celebration. And then they were denigrated for no apparent reason.

And so, it does, you know, strike at the heart of self-esteem of women in general, the self-esteem of black women in particular. It doesn't do a service to the Tennessee team in terms of they won the championship and now they're pretty much -- I mean, as a Rutgers alum I'm happy, but if you're really being fair to the Tennessee Lady Vols, they're being totally obscured. And so, just across the board, it's really atrocious. This is not a minor kind of slipup that you say, listen, give a little suspension here...

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: Yes. But, Alfred, can he apologize enough? I mean, this is -- many will say in defense of him, that he's apologizing, he's on the record with a full-throated apology. He is doing an apology tour some will say.

Has he done enough?

EDMOND: Well, as we say at "Black Enterprise," the emphasis is on the wrong syllable. This is not about getting Don Imus to apologize anymore.

I think Don Imus has said everything he can possibly say. Now it's time for his employers to say, OK, now, what is the appropriate response as his employers to this violation?

And so, my pressure and my expectation is not of what Don Imus is going to say. It's going to be what is MSNBC and WFAN going to do about this particular problem. And if you're telling me it's just a two-week suspension, I'm not impressed.

HARRIS: How difficult will it be -- you know, you work for "Black Enterprise" magazine. You know the business culture, the business cycle. How difficult is it going to be for advertisers to continue to support this particular show after these comments?

What's your thought on that?

EDMOND: Well, a lot of that depends on the values of the advertiser. Now, they're in the business of making money.

HARRIS: Yes.

EDMOND: Let's not make any mistakes about it. And that's what they should be in the business to do. I think if they recognize a loss of audience, I think if they recognize the quality of the program they'd like to associate their products with, I think that they'll figure out a way to continue to make money, but we can do it without associating ourselves with this kind of, you know, negative media representation.

Don Imus as a show is not going to make or break any of those advertisers. So, it's really a matter of, what are their values, what are the things that they want to see themselves being associated with? And I think that still goes back to MSNBC and WFAN, because the advertisers are their clients. So, they have an obligation to their advertisers just like they have an obligation to their viewers to decide, what are we going to do that's going to tell us that we value our relationship with you more than we value our relationship with this particular media personality who, you know, clearly has, you know, miscarried out his responsibilities? HARRIS: Yes. Hey, Alfred, I don't know if you can see this, but the Scarlet Knights are walking into the building right now, and they all seem to be carrying a piece of paper.

So, it seems to me that we might be hearing statements from each and every member of that team. And we saw Vivian Stringer, the coach, just a moment ago.

And one more quick thought -- this is from Gwen Ifill, who you know is just an outstanding broadcaster who had this to say in an editorial, I believe, in "The New York Times" this morning.

"This country will only flourish once we consistently learn to applaud and encourage the young people who have to work harder just to achieve balance on the unequal playing field. Let's see if we can manage to build them up and reward them, rather than opting for the cheapest, easiest and most despicable shots."

Alfred, thank you so much.

Let's get you the press conference.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... many outstanding moments for our women's basketball team through the years.

You are familiar with what you might think is the story. But the real story is not the despicable and degrading comments issued by Don Imus and his producer. The real story is about the 2006-'07, Rutgers women's basketball team, their incredible accomplishments, where they came from, and how far they went to play in the pinnacle of their sport, the NCAA National Championship game.

Behind me or alongside of me are the young women on the team. I can tell you that they are the antithesis of the vulgar portrayal that Imus made.

Today we'll hear from Rutgers president, Dr. Richard McCormick; women's basketball coach, C. Vivian Stringer; and two members of the team, Heather Zurich and Essence Carson. We will also set time for you to speak with Heather, Essence, and the remaining three upper classmen, Kia Vaughn, Matee Ajavon, and Katie Adams, before they have to leave to go to class.

I will remain after that, along with Dr. McCormick and Coach Stringer, to answer your questions.

We want to make sure that everyone understands the position of the university and the university community. That the comments made on the Imus program were reprehensible and disgusting.

That program abused the unique privilege they have of speaking to the country over the airwaves, and assaulted the character of 10 exceptionally talented and hard-working young women. The young women are among the very best at our great university, and we are proud of the way they represent us in so many ways.

It is time for us all to understand the lack of civility and sensitivity in our culture. This episode should serve as a stunning reminder to everyone that before anyone makes frivolous comments of a sensitive and hurtful nature, that the consequences of what they say be considered.

It is now my privilege to introduce to you Dr. Richard McCormick, the president of Rutgers University.

DR. RICHARD MCCORMICK, PRESIDENT, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: The Rutgers community and the citizens of New Jersey are extraordinarily proud of our remarkable women's basketball team. We're here today to let the world know that Rutgers fully supports this coach and these student athletes.

Under the guidance of Coach C. Vivian Stringer, these 10 young women overcame great odds and achieved unprecedented success through sheer talent, drive and hard work. They made a run through the NCAA tournament that probably only they, themselves, believed possible. And they captured the hearts of New Jersey and the nation.

Then, just at the golden moment, while we were celebrating the team's accomplishments, came Imus' despicable words that were deeply hurtful to our students, coaches and their families. His words were also offensive to every member of the Rutgers community and to people across the nation.

Racism and sexism have no place in our society and are completely at odds with our values as a university that celebrates diversity and civility. We cannot stand silent and let these young women be unfairly attacked. They deserve our admiration and respect. They did nothing to invite the words that Don Imus used. So, as a community, we have wrapped our arms around this team of student athletes in the hope that our support will see them through this painful moment in their lives.

With the permission of the students, I have been phoning their parents, one by one, to express my sympathy and regard and to assure them that Rutgers stands proudly behind their daughters. We have their backs.

Our job right now is to make sure they have the personal and academic support they need to successfully complete the school year. These are all good students, and we want to ensure that this situation does not undermine their academic success.

As NCCA president Miles Brand and I stated in a joint press release last Friday, it is unconscionable that anyone would use the airwaves to utter such disregard for the dignity of human beings who have accomplished so much and deserved such great credit. We stand behind our team and could not be prouder of them for the way they have conducted themselves, both on and off the field. My fondest hope is that this difficult time will bring forth at Rutgers an increased commitment to the values of civility, tolerance and equality. In 2007, those goals should not have been at risk, but briefly they were, and so we must redouble our efforts to make sure it never happens again.

Thank you for being the outstanding ambassadors of Rutgers whom you are. My heart goes out to you and my warm congratulations to each and every one of you.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is now my privilege to present one of the finest coaches in the country, whose paramount concern has always been the welfare of her players, Coach C. Vivian Stringer.

(APPLAUSE)

C. VIVIAN STRINGER, RUTGERS WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH: Thank you, Dr. McCormick and Mr. Mulcahy (ph).

Let me bring a human face to all of this.

Ladies and Gentlemen, people of the nation, I want you to see 10 young women who accomplished so much, that we, as a coaching staff, as a state university, men, women and people across this nation are so very proud of. These young ladies that you have seated before you, before you are valedictorians of their class, future doctors, musical prodigies, and, yes, even Girl Scouts.

These young ladies are the best this nation has to offer. And we are so very fortunate to have them here at Rutgers University.

(APPLAUSE)

STRINGER: 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.

You see, what you don't realize, perhaps some of you don't realize, that less than a year ago, five of these young ladies were preparing to graduate from high school. There are five freshmen here. And as they prepared to graduate from high school, they thought about what great opportunity they were going to have to come to Rutgers University and get an education, and play at the highest levels. That's what they thought.

And before you know it, less than a year, they found themselves on the national stage playing for the world to see, basketball at its highest level, and which, I might add, that this freshman class has over a 3.0 grade point average. This group of young, innocent women are bright, gifted, hard-working, and they have persevered through much.

And while all of you come to find and talk about this great story, or this story, the Don Imus story, in the translation you have lost really what this is really all about, because, you see, at the beginning of the year, we were humiliated as we lost a 40-point game right here in this arena to the number one team in the country. That was followed by losses to the University of (INAUDIBLE).

But through perseverance and hard work, determination, during the Christmas holidays they spent eight to 10 hours working and going through films and studying and working so hard to become all of what they could be. And ultimately, they ended up playing for the national championship. No one believed in them but them.

That's the greatest story. And so while they were presented before the nation as one to see and for one to realize that it doesn't matter where you come from, but where you're going, it doesn't matter where you start it, but how you end it, because that is the story, perseverance, hard work, determination. This group of classy young women in all that they do have represented all of us in such a classy manner that I have nothing but pride, pride and respect for them.

You know, it was amazing, because less than 24 hours after they had accomplished so much, and when we should have come back to Rutgers to have all the people exult and speak of all the things that they had accomplished and all the hopes and dreams that they go gave to so many young girls and to young people, and to people everywhere, all of you, about what it meant to work hard, they came back to this. We have all been physically, mentally, and emotionally spent, so hurt by the remarks that were uttered by Mr. Imus.

But, you see, we also understood a long time ago that, you know what? No one can make you feel inferior unless you allow them, that we can't let other people steal our joy. We've always understood that for a long, long time.

My role as a coach is one to love, nurture, discipline, teach and prepare our young women for leadership roles in this society. And that I am sure of. And all that we do and all the travels that we have had, this group of young women have been presented as nothing less than class in every aspect of all that they do.

And while they've worked hard in the classroom and accomplished so much, and used their gifts and talents, you know, to bring the smiles and the pride within this state and so many people, we had to experience racist and sexist remarks that are deplorable, despicable and abominable, and unconscionable. And it hurts me, because, you know, as I was telling them, as a 16-year-old little girl, if you might -- I might add, I was -- I was a victim of racial discrimination. But, you see, I had a father and a mom and I had a group of people that stood up for me.

You see, because we had never had a cheerleader at my school, never had a minority cheerleader. And so there was a gentleman that came to my house late after my father had come home from the coal mine and he said to my father -- he said, "Buddy, your daughter was not only one of the best cheerleaders, she was clearly the best." And I listened to this upstairs and I was nervous and I was afraid.

And he said, "Please, allow us to have her presented before the school board because she has excellent grades. And she was not one of the best, she was clearly the best. We've never had a minority cheerleader at this high school."

And so as my father approached me about this, I said no. And he said some things that would ring true to me and was a life-altering experience. And he said to me, "Vivian, if you don't stand up for something, you'll fall for anything."

"And you know what? This might not be about you or for you, but it is for future generations of young women that you need to take a stand. And I'll leave you with that. Go to sleep and make your decision in the morning."

Oh, I thought, and I couldn't sleep that night, I was so nervous. I hadn't done anything wrong. I'd just been as good as I could possibly be.

Yes, I allowed myself to be presented before the school board and, yes, I was placed on the cheerleading squad. And we became the best of friends, my cheerleading friends and I. And our school was healed and there became future generations of cheerleaders and majorettes and the like.

So, as I felt what Mr. Imus said, I experienced this not only as a coach and as a mom to them, but as a person who had also experienced the same. And I hurt, yes, and I've cried, and I've been angry and disappointed, because I don't understand all of that.

And yet, to a great extent I do. I do. Because in my mind, there's time for change.

You see, because it is not about these young women. The truth of the matter is that, I would ask you, whether you're a businessman, whether you're a camera person, whether you're a government official or whatever, who amongst you could have heard the comments and not been personally offended?

It's not about the Rutgers women's basketball team, it's about women. Are women hos? Think about that. Would you have wanted your daughter to have been called that? It's not about they as black people or as nappy headed, it's about us as a people, black, white, purple or green. And I want to suggest that as much as I speak about that, the truth of the matter is, that it is not even black and white; the color is green. The color is green. You see, because if we can tolerate as a society what has just taken place, the remarks that have been directed toward young women. I don't know how anyone could have heard this and not been personally hurt and offended.

When there is not equality for all, or when there's been denied equality for one, there's been denied equality for all. These young ladies have done nothing wrong. Some of you might point to, well, you know what, he makes comments about other political figures or other professionals. These aren't political figures, nor are they professionals; these are hard-working, 18, 19, 20-year-old young women who came here to get an education and use their gifts for all to see. These are the young women that little girls look up to, and we as adults, at what point in life do we not call upon people to stop, stop and reflect because there is a bigger issue here. It's more than the Rutgers women's basketball team. It is all women athletes. It is all women.

Have we lost a sense of our own moral fiber? Has society decayed to such a point that we could forgive and forget because, you know what, it was just a slip of the tongue? I'm going to suggest that bright-thinking people give thought before they speak. And if a person is put in the position to allow their voice, voices to be heard across the airwaves, those that employ them need to give thought and consideration to those people who speak for all of us. Do they speak for us?

When the parents, high school coaches, AAU coaches, entrusted their daughters to me as a coach, I love them, I cherish them, I appreciate the privilege that I have. I am to prepare them for the world. You see, because here at Rutgers University the Scarlet Knights are just not playing basketball games; we're preparing for life. We're preparing for leadership roles in societies. It has never just been a basketball game here for us. It has always been about life.

And we were so excited, my coaches and I, as we sat and called so many recruits and their families spoke to us and they were so excited. Because you know what, they saw class. They saw this team distinguish themselves amongst all the best, because you know what, what they saw is the same team that had suffered a 40-point loss persevere and end up beating the same team, Duke, the No. 1 team in the country, on Duke's floor. They saw this team that heard, well, you know what, the NCAA said, well, you know what, in order for you to compete, you must go to Michigan State or Michigan, Michigan State, and you'll play before 15,000 people. If you're that good, you'll overcome that. This group did. And then they said, you know what, now you'll go to North Carolina and take on the mighty Duke. If you're to get to the finals, just to get an opportunity. They did, much to the amazement of the entire nation.

And then, as it would say on the banner, then there were four, they would play the mighty LSU, the team that in fact had defeated Tennessee a week before. All the pundits would say, this is not possible for this group of five freshmen and five upper classmen, of which there are no seniors. One of the players, Matee Ajavon, only joined us two months late because she had a rod placed in the middle of her knee, or leg, just before the start of the season. That's not possible. And yet they did.

And then in so doing, they broke all kinds of NCAA records for defense. They showed the world that it's not about where you come from, but where you're going. It's not about how you start but how you finish. They restored my faith and confidence as a coach. They have given me life. I have been privileged. I honor and I respect that parents would entrust their daughters to me at such a delicate age, between 18 and 22. We as coaches have the last chance to touch these young people as they go on to make -- and point them in the right direction for society.

So I would ask all of us as adults, what is this really all about? Are we not responsible as an educational institution, as adults here? Are we not responsible for nurturing their dreams and supporting them? because it's all too often that society is pointing at all the bad things that young people do. What happens when young people do good things and do the right things? Are we as adults responsible enough to stand up for what is right? That's what I would ask everyone.

Is there malice in my heart? No, I'm hurt. But I do recognize that this issue speaks to a bigger issue. To utter such despicable words are not right, whether spoken by black, white, purple or green, male or female, tall or short, skinny or fat, whatever, it is not right. It's time for everybody to reflect on what is going on. Oh, it's time, ladies and gentlemen, it's been time. And as I said to this young group of people. I've had the privilege of taking four teams -- three teams to the final four. The first time I took a team was at Cheney University, but I wasn't able to experience that with great joy because my heart was heavy. My daughter was stricken with meningitis and has been confined to a wheelchair since she's been 14 months.

The second time was at the University of Iowa. My husband suddenly died to a heart attack. And that same year I was to go to a Final Four. My heart has never been light in going to a Final Four. But in coming to Rutgers, thank God, we were able to go to a final four in the year 2000. But we never got to the championship game. It took me personally 25 years to come to a championship game. And for once, as I explained to my colleagues, my God, this was a team that had so little, that gave so much. This was a team that was so young that wasn't supposed -- they accomplished more in one year than any team that I've ever seen or ever coached. This was the team that would restore all of our faith and confidence in young people, because they didn't really know what hard work was about. They didn't really know what discipline was all about. Many of them were just experiencing college life for the first time.

But you know what, they grew. They matured. They have always been great students. They learned to work together. They were stripped of everything that they had, their locker room, their clothing, until they learned to function as a team. Yes, they grew and they became one mighty powerful group. A group of young women that I know that their parents would be so proud. And I know their parents are proud. And as I said to them, your parents have a right to be hurt and angry, because they've made major sacrifices to give them an opportunity to come to this university.

Rutgers University has had proud a tradition for many years as being one of the highest academic universities in this country, make no mistake about that. These young ladies get it done on both sides. And if we can't support them, I don't know who we support. And I say to them, to their parents, I thank them for entrusting me with their lives. I understand the magnitude of my responsibility. And with every breath in my body, I will defend them because I am honored, I am proud, so very proud and so fortunate that the good lord has allowed me to be a coach. That's an awesome responsibility.

And so to my coaches and to my team, I thank them. They have no reason to drop their heads. We hold our heads high with dignity, and as my father said, with respect for ourselves. And I ask that everyone, everyone who can hear my voice, please, understand that we all need to make changes. We all need to make changes. Yes, it happens to be Mr. Imus, but beyond Mr. Imus, it's all of us. Do we understand what's going on in our society?

And maybe these young people who taught us, you know, how to be winners on the basketball court can also serve as examples as winners, in life. You know, in the Bible they say, even the child shall lead. Perhaps the babes will lead. These are smart ladies. These are classy young women. These are very bright young women.

And I am thankful to this University for allowing me to serve as their coach and to all of the people that have been associated with them. And I trust that our president, our governor, our athletic director will continue to lead, support, respect, honor and defend these young ladies.

And to all of you, I say thank you very much. You're going to hear from two of the young people that we've chosen to serve as spokespeople for you. And I sincerely thank all of you for being here tonight. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it gives you great insight into the program that we have here, the quality of the coach in her beliefs in a society that so desperately needs it. Part of our effort today was to raise this up, this whole situation to a point where we talked about what needs to be done, but we also had an opportunity to express some joy and have people understand the quality of the young women who are on this team.

In the past month, many of you who cover us have had the opportunity to talk to them in locker rooms in Hartford, Michigan, Greensborough (ph) and Cleveland. And those of you who cover us know what they're like. But the rest of the world doesn't. And I think when you hear from two of these young women, you'll begin to understand what the coach has spoken about in terms of the quality of the team and you'll be able to judge for yourselves why we are so proud of these young women.

The first player that I wish to introduce is Heather Zurich. She's a sophomore from Montvale, New Jersey. Heather?

HEATHER ZURICH, RUTGERS BASKETBALL PLAYER: Good morning. I'm Heather Zurich, a sophomore and proud member of the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team. This week and last, we should have been celebrating our accomplishments this past season. Many of the media here may not realize, my team started out the season with a record of two and four. We were at the lowest of lows. Coach Stringer called us her worst defensive team ever.

But we, the ten of us here prevailed. We fought, we persevered and most of all, we believed in ourselves. We won 22 of 25 games to finish the season before falling to Tennessee in the National Championship game. We won the Big East Championship along the way, the first ever and advanced to the NCAA tournament. We shocked a lot of people and arrived in Cleveland at the Final Four. But this team did not settle for just showing up. We reached what many would only dream of, the NCAA title game.

But all of our accomplishments were lost, 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. We were stripped of this moment by the 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. He doesn't know that Mattee (ph) is the funniest person you'll ever meet. Kia (ph) is the big sister you never had but always wanted. And Piph (ph) would make an unbelievable lawyer one day. These are my teammates, my family. And we were insulted and yes, we are angry. Worst of all, my team and I did nothing to deserve either Mr. Imus nor Mr. McGuirk's deplorable comments.

Our families are upset and with good reason. Instead of enjoying our first day off in a month to celebrate Easter with our families, this was the topic of conversation. The ten of us up here attend the eighth oldest institution of higher education in the country and not to mention, one of the most difficult academically.

We are ten, simply put, student athletes. But this morning instead of attending study hall and class, I stand here to address you about something that never should have happened. I'm extremely proud of my teammates. I'm proud when we walk through an airport on the way to or from a road trip dressed alike in Rutgers gear with presssed pants and nice shoes.

I believe we present ourselves well, both on and off the court, even though Mr. Imus seemed to think differently. But then again, he knows not one of us. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before we conclude with the leader of the team, I'd like each of the players to just come up and introduce themselves. State their name and tell you where they're from. I guess if we started from the other end, Dee Dee (ph).

DEE DEE JERNIGAN (ph): Good morning. I'm Dee Dee Jernigan, I'm from east Chicago, Indiana, and I'm a freshman.

EPIPHANY PRINCE (ph): Good morning. I'm Epiphanny Prince, a freshman from Brooklyn, New York.

BRITTANY RAY (ph): Good morning. My name's Brittany Ray, I'm from the Bronx, New York, and I'm a freshman.

MYA MCCURDY (ph): Good morning, everyone. My name is Mya McCurdy, I'm from Cincinnati, Ohio and I'm a freshman.

RASHIDAT JUNAID (ph): Good morning. My name is Rashidat Junaid, and I'm from (INAUDIBLE), New Jersey and I'm a freshman.

KATIE ADAMS (ph): Good morning, my name is Katie Adams, from Ogden, Utah, I'm a junior and proud member of the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team.

MATTEE AJAVON (ph): Good morning. I'm Mattee Ajavon, and I'm a junior from Newark, New Jersey.

KIA VAUGHN: Good morning, everyone. My name is Kia Vaughn, and I'm from the Bronx, New York. And I'm a sophomore on this great team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what comes through is the closeness, the unity and the feelings that these young women have for one another. And I think that this is a tribute to the coach and what she has done and how she runs her program and the lessons that she teaches.

The last portion of our formal program, I would like to call upon the leader of the team, the captain, from Patterson, New Jersey, Essence Carson.

ESSENCE CARSON, RUTGERS BASKETBALL PLAYER: Good morning. My name is Essence Carson and I'm a junior student athlete here at Rutgers University. I would like to express our team's great hurt, anger and disgust towards the words of Mr. Don Imus. We are highly angered at his remarks but deeply saddened with the racial characterizations they entailed.

Not only has Mr. Imus stolen a moment of pure grace from us, but he has brought us to the harsh reality that behind the faces of the networks, that have worked so hard to convey a message of empowerment to young adults that somehow, some way, the door has been left open to attack your leaders of tomorrow.

You must not forget that we are students first and then we're athletes. And before the student lies the daughter. On collegiate athletics grandest stage, under the brightest lights with the focal point being nothing other than (INAUDIBLE) that symbolizes the hard work, the perseverance of a team so deserving, the curtains will close on an act that deserves nothing short of an encore.

This Rutgers University Women's Basketball Team has made history. We were the first team in this school's history to reach the National Championship final game. We the team are full of youthful, bright- eyed athletes that aspire to be great. Not only great on the basketball court but great in the fields of medicine, music and psychology.

I'd like to pose a question. Not a question of insult, but a question of pure thought. Where were these major networks when the youth were making history for prestigious university? Now, we are bombarded with phone calls, e-mails and with cameras. They invade our privacy and place us between a rock and a hard place. We haven't done anything to deserve this controversy. But yet, it has taken a toll on us mentally and physically. Driven to a point of mental and physical exhaustion, we ask that you not recognize us in a light as dimly lit as this but in a light that encompasses the great hurdles we've overcome and the goals achieved this season.

Now with that said, we have agreed to have a meeting with Mr. Don Imus. This meeting will be a private meeting at an undisclosed location 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. And we just would like to express our great hurt, the sadness that it has brought to us.

It's more than a game of basketball. It's more than Rutgers women's basketball team. As Coach Stringer said, we realize that it's about women across the world, across this nation. It just so happens we finally stay take a stand and we ask that you continue to support us and not look at it as we're attacking, you know, a major broadcasting figure. We're attacking something, an issue that we know isn't right. We just continue to ask for your support and we thank you for your support thus far.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you hear these young women, you begin to understand why we felt it was important today to bring them out and let you see, and let the country see, what they are, what they stand for, and how they respond and the high-class manner in which they respond. Essence Carson, the leader of our team, is a straight A student, she's an accomplished musician who could walk out today to the piano and play moonlight sonata without any notes.

This is the kind of thing that people don't focus on, that we have her and makes us so special. And that's why these women are special, that's why this coach is special and this University is special in the manner in which they've come together from top to bottom.

It would be wrong if I didn't acknowledge the support the governor has given by being here and the reverend Deforasoes (ph) who has been with us through all of this is over here. He's been a tremendous help. And a guide to these young women and to this coaching staff and to this athletic director on how we handle all of these things.

We have set aside a couple of minutes if you have questions for our upper classmen. We have a policy and a procedure here that the freshmen do not respond in public to these issues. But the five upper classmen, Essence, Heather, Kia, Matee and Katie would be happy to respond to any questions that you might have. We have a microphone that is here and we have someone out here. I would ask, that when you ask the question, state your name, and affiliation, and organization so that we know who's asking the question and we can go from there.

Brian?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Kia. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brian Thompson, NBC, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brian Thompson, NBC.

BRIAN TOMPSON, WNBC: For Kia and Matee, when do you sit down with Imus, what would you plan to say to him? What would you expect to hear from him? And there have been to kind of end that, there have been many calls from some people for him to be fired. Do you all as a team agree that that would be the only reasonable solution?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I could say that we honestly don't know what to expect from Doug Imus. We were planning on asking him, what was his reasons and how could you just say things that you have not put any thought to. But, I mean, right now, I can't really say if we, you know, we have come to a conclusion of, you know, whether we would accept the apology. What I can say is that I think this meeting will be crucial for us, to the state of New Jersey and everybody representing us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no comments on whether or not he should be fired. But within this meeting, I would like to know why, you know, what was said, what's the reason for it being said. You might look at it as being a harsh meeting. But I would like for him to get to know us as a whole and myself as being a great person and why that statement is so false.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what they also express and what we feel, too, it's an opportunity for them to express their feelings about an issue that's, as the coach said, larger than this team. It pervades our society today and we need to deal with it. And if they can become spokespeople to get that issue across and to speak about tolerance and civility in our relations, it will make a dent in the culture that has been created in so many places.

Next question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To the right, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm Jack Ettery, WCTC radio in New Jersey. So much of our culture, as Coach Stringer mentioned, demeans women. In particular, black women. And I refer to rap music, Comedy Central, so forth and so on. Do you have any comments about some of the despicable lyrics of rap music and what goes on on Comedy Central? And in other aspects of our society?

CARSON: I would like to say that I know that rap, hip hop, and any other music of that genre has desensitized America and this world to some of the words that they choose to use in their lyrics. I understand that. But that doesn't make it anymore right for anyone to say it, it doesn't matter if you are African American, Caucasian, Asian, it really doesn't matter. All that matters is its wrong. As a society we are trying to grow and trying to surpass that and get to a point where we classify women as hos and we don't classify African American women as nappy-headed hos. Or anything other than a classy woman that every woman at this press conference is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (inaudible question)

CARSON: I'm sorry, ma'am but we haven't personally received an apology. I believe these apologies are written statements given to the media, and personally, if someone were to apologize to me, I would feel better if I heard from themselves. Reading it in a newspaper, or watching it on television or hearing it on the radio, doesn't serve any justice to what he said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, in the middle here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am Warren Levinson, from the Associated Press. Kia, could you give us a sense of what it's been like the last week? There's been a lot of talk about how this has taken away your moment. Take us through that a little bit? What's been going on?

KIA VAUGHN, RUTGERS WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: I believe it was Heather. During Easter this weekend, I have seven brothers as everyone does know, instead of me spending time with my brothers and having fun, I had to cut off my phone, the media was trying to call relatives. People who wasn't there, being fans, but also just showed up in this moment of hurt, it was good to hear from some people, but having to repeatedly express how I felt within this moment, became really agitated. And I was aggravated, so I left it alone. With this, this takes away from school and study hall and everything else. Things that we should be doing and we are capable of doing and succeeding in and instead we have to address the situation which shouldn't have been spoken upon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul Franken, Home News in East Brunswick, New Jersey, a lot of times in bad situations, good things result. What do you think, ideally or realistically, good can come from this?

CARSON: I believe there are a lot of positives that can come from this. One thing is, that we finally speak up for women, not only African American women but all women. And that's just going to be a major step forward in society, to finally understand that there isn't that equality that we all wish was there. It is something that we all hope for, and until we make great strides to actually achieve that, I believe that we will continue to fall short. But with this, that -- since we're finally speaking up, and I'm glad that we are, I believe that we can achieve that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part of the reason, Paul, we wanted to showcase these women, is they can play a role in the public debate about these kinds of comments. And because once people realize what they are, and how they -- and how they act -- and you know them because you cover them -- people will begin to understand that they are raising the dialogue substantially.

Questions?

FILIP BONDY, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Filip Bondy from "The New York Daily News". I was wondering if there's any mixed feelings about this meeting with Mr. Imus in terms of worrying that he's using you, yet again, to cleanse his image here, and to sort of say, well, now I've done what I needed to do? Was there discussion among you about that, and could you sort of let me know -- or let us all know what your thoughts, whether there were mixed feelings in this discussion, and how you came about that decision?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who might you be directing your question to?

BONDY: Any of the players. Any of the players who want to take it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's the spokesperson.

CARSON: Well, we as a group have decided, we all agreed that this meeting with Mr. Imus would help. We have thought about it. The thought of him cleansing his image with this apology, this personal apology, has definitely crossed our minds, but we understand that this isn't the first time that this has happened. This isn't the second time that it's happened, and it sure isn't the third.

So, there must be a lot of cleansing that's going on. But we do -- we do hope to get something accomplished during this meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes? To the right?

BIANCA SOLORZANO, CBS NEWS: Hi. I'm Bianca Solorzano with CBS News.

Kia, this morning on Don Imus's radio show he said that he intends to serve his suspension which begins on Monday for two weeks with as much dignity as possible. Any ideas what you would like him to be doing during that time? Any actions he could be taking, other than words of an apology that you think could make a difference here?

VAUGHN: No comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, in the back?

PAUL BOYD, "INSIDE EDITION": Hi. Paul Boyd with "Inside Edition."

Essence, several of your teammates have declined to comment on the suspension. Another "no comment" here. Mr. Imus this morning said that he feels the suspension is appropriate.

Would you care to characterize it?

CARSON: I can't quite characterize the suspension. I believe that his employers -- I mean, they have done a great job. I mean, especially with the apologies that they have sent out through the media. But at the same time, I mean, the situation isn't quite over. So, there is still some work to be done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) with "The Bergen Record".

E, this one is for you. Sorry.

Reverend Sharpton, Reverend Jackson, these men have all kind of taken up your cause. A, have any of them actually contacted you personally? And B, how do you feel about having your names sort of co-opted this way?

CARSON: I believe that Reverend Sharpton -- I believe that he's using this as another example for something that he's been fighting for for a long time. It just happens to be us.

It just proves -- like I said, as I spoke earlier, it just brings us to a harsh reality that the things that we're discussing today, they aren't over, and they haven't been resolved. So -- but I haven't been personally contacted by Mr. Al Sharpton. But I kind of like my privacy, so, you know, the phone calls and stuff, you know, they have been quite annoying, aggravating, and I wish that they could stop.

But I believe that he is doing a good thing just as he always has done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to take about three or four more questions for the student athletes before they go to class.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rebecca (ph) from The Associated Press.

Can you tell us, is there anything that you think should be done to the television and radio stations that carry his program? A question for Essence or Heather, or Kia?

And also, what classes are you heading off to next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told you she was the spokesperson for this team.

CARSON: Well, as far as his employers, the radio station that broadcast his show, I mean, honestly, it's about the broadcasting issue. We all know that's about making money, about your ratings, how many people you can get to listen, how many people you can get to watch.

So, I mean, I can't blame them for, you know, supporting his show prior to this incident. I mean, he does have, you know, pretty good ratings, so I've heard.

So, you know, I really can't blame them. But I believe that they -- that they have taken action with his suspension. They've begun to take action.

I don't know what else will happen, and I really -- I really haven't -- we haven't come to the conclusion of what we would like to happen, so that's still up in the air.

No, I'm sorry. I haven't listened to his show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, in the back?

ANTHONY JOHNSON, CHANNEL 7 EYEWITNESS NEWS: Yes, good afternoon, ladies. Congratulations on your accomplishments this year. We're all very proud of you, of course.

Anthony Johnson from Channel 7 Eyewitness News.

You have achieved both academically and athletically. And if you accept the apology from Mr. Don Imus, what kind of message do you think that sends to African-Americans across the country that are looking for you ladies to make a stand, for the coach and the university to make a stand?

Is two weeks really enough or should there be more? What would you like? And what kind of message does it send?

CARSON: We haven't really discussed accepting his apology. I believe that's what this meeting in the near future -- I believe that's what it will cover, and we will get a better understanding and -- of his apology, that I guess he's released to the press.

So, there's still a lot more, you know, contemplation that has to go on. We still have to discuss it as a team, as a program, as a university, together. Because this has affected not only us, many of the women across the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I also think it should be made clear that in the conversation that ensued to have a meeting, it was made very clear by me that they may not accept the apology. But that they felt there was an opportunity here to at least listen to him and to see what he had to say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We're going to take in the back. And after that, we'll take Bridget.

In the back first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, my name is Richard Barber (ph), and I'm state treasurer for the NAACP, representing our president, James Harris.

My question is for Essence and the teammates.

We've been inundated with concerns from our college and youth chapters. My question, what action -- or what message would you want us to convey to our college and youth chapters across this nation?

AJAVON: Well, I think the message that needs to be conveyed is that, you know, I think, first and fore most, it starts with, you know, women -- you know, black women. You know, all colors, that, you know, women are of equal -- you know, we need to start, you know, taking more heed into, you know, what women do in this world, and show that we -- we also can accomplish anything that we put our minds to.

And as far as, you know, the NAACP, you know, I would like to say that we really do thank you guys for coming out, you know, and that it's not just about -- you know, it's not just about black women, you know. We have -- we have a lot to say, and women in general, you know, we just have to get a lot across, and show the world that we are worth more. And we can't just be bashed just because of our gender.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bridget.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bridget.

BRIDGET WENTWORTH, "NEWARK STAR-LEDGER": Bridget Wentworth, "Newark Star-Ledger".

I'm going to direct this to Essence.

And Bob, if you could also address this as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bob will take questions later. Right now, we're just doing student athletes.

WENTWORTH: OK. OK.

I'm wondering, Essence, if it was ever -- the team ever discussed or if you thought about just ignoring this, just completely ignoring this, keeping yourselves sort of above the discourse on it, and ignoring it? And did that ever occur to you, and why is -- have you decided it's important not to ignore it?

CARSON: I can honestly say at first, as a whole, I believe that the first thought was, you know, just let it slide. But when reading the transcript of the entire conversation with Mr. Imus and his producer, it hit -- it hit a little too close to home.

The remarks that were made were definitely unacceptable simply -- not only because he's a broadcaster that gets across to so many people -- I mean, he's in the media capital of this nation, broadcasting out of New York. So, I mean, his message was conveyed, he got his message across to so many people. So, can you imagine how many people really did think that maybe there is some truth behind -- behind the joke?

So -- and, just growing up in this society as a 20-year-old, I've seen a lot of things in my day. I've seen things happen to women. I've heard things that happen to women. And you learn about them in school. And not many times, not many -- you don't get too many opportunities to finally stand up for what you know is right.

I know we're at a young age, but we definitely understand what is right and what should be done, and what should be made of this. And we're happy, and we're glad to finally have the opportunity to stand up for what we know is right.

ZURICH: I just wanted to add onto that, also.

I think besides the fact that the comment -- I mean, none of us thought it could be ignored. I was difficult because the media -- you know, we had people calling our houses, calling our cell phones, following us around campus. You know, people went home for the weekend and the issue just -- we didn't want to ignore it, but you couldn't ignore it either just because the media wanted to know, you know, our opinion, what we thought, what was going on.

So, it was also difficult in that way to ignore it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the back please?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Yes, Jim Acosta with CNN.

The Don Imus show is often a place where you see politicians, media figures, even presidential candidates. And seeing how the presidential campaign is getting started right now, do you think the Imus program is an appropriate forum for presidential candidates?

CARSON: Honestly, when you are a politician, when you are -- when you are in the public eye, you are trying to convey a message, as well. And what better play to convey a message, where, you are getting ratings like Mr. Imus?

I mean -- it's all about getting your message across. Even if they may not agree with his -- with his message, I mean, they are still getting their message across. So you cannot blame them for that.

I mean, it's all about a race, a race to the finish. You are trying -- trying to get the most viewers, you're trying to get the most votes. And, sadly, but surely, that's -- I mean, that's the way they have to do it sometimes.

Should it be that way? Wow, I mean, again, that goes back to it being about money and it being about ratings. It all comes back to the same thing. It doesn't mean it's right. But it happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other questions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over here to the right?

CHARITY ELDER, CBS NEWS: Hi. My name is Charity Elder with CBS News.

Did you find Don Imus' questions more offensive as a woman or as an African-American?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kia? Go ahead, Kia.

VAUGHN: Personally, as a woman, and an African-American woman, I found it both. I believe that he said, "ho". And unless -- in my case, a ho stands for achievement or is something that you are getting done and you know that you're a wonderful person, then I'm not a ho.

And at that, I'm a woman, and I'm someone's child. And, you know, it's -- it hurts a lot, it does hurt. And there's a lot that should be said, there's a lot that I want to say. But you know, you can't say it.

And I would like to speak to him personally, you know, and express how I feel, face to face and ask him, "After you have met me as a person, do you feel in this category that I'm still a ho, as a woman, and as a black African-American woman at that?"

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) New York.

One of you referenced the conversation Mr. Imus had with his producer. Is his producer being held accountable? Do you expect an apology from him as well? And will he be apart of the meeting?

CARSON: We have addressed him, you know, in our speeches. I believe he's being held accountable simply for the fact because when they suspended Imus' show, you know, as a producer, you are out of a job, as well. So, I mean, we understand that he was part of the conversation as well. He may have started it with just a -- putting the word "ho" out there, then to be followed up by Mr. Imus' statement.

I mean, so -- I mean, you can't accept that from anyone. We're not only talking about Mr. Imus here.

Like we said, this is a worldwide thing. It's something that has attacked not only African-American women, but women in general.

And that's just -- we are just trying to speak up, give a voice to women, period. And to speak up against those who really suffer from sexism. Because you are really suffering from it, because it's not acceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to take two more questions. Two more questions.

In the back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, my name is Gerald Lamont Thomas (ph). I represent the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the convention of Dr. Martin Luther King.

To these young ladies, now that you have personally confronted racism, sexism, classism, how is your cultural conscience now going to allow you to help change the perspective of people, not only your colleagues, but those who you will engage for the rest of your life? Because now you know.

AJAVON: Personally, and, you know, even speaking for, you know, my teammates, you know, I think it kind of scares us, you know? We kind of -- we grew up in a world where, you know, of course, racism exists, and there's nothing we can do to, you know, change that.

I think we've come a long way from where we were, you know, dealing with slavery and things of that sort. But, you know, I think this has scarred me for life, because, you know, I've been -- you know, I've done -- I've dealt with racism before, but you know, for it to be in the public eye like this, you know, it will definitely be something that, you know, I probably will tell my granddaughter or, you know, the next generation, or, you know, even a group of kids from where I came from, you know.

And it's something that needs to be dealt with, and I don't think it's ever going to change. But you know, I'm kind of happy that it even came to this point, where we could address the world, and address athletics, and, you know, address a lot of people that, you know, racism is something serious that we need to, you know, really get across to our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you please wait for the mic? OK. Well, we'll take two more then.

KELLY WHITESIDE, "USA TODAY": Kelly Whiteside, "USA Today".

Essence, can you just describe how Coach Stringer has helped you through this period, and how her life example has helped the team?

CARSON: I believe Coach Stringer has helped us throughout the season. I mean, she's a strong woman.

She has been through many struggles in her life, starting with her daughter, as she explained earlier. And that there, that just proved to us that it's not where you come from, but where you're going.

Her perseverance gave us strength. That's what helped us persevere throughout the season, and through a time like this, it does the same.

I mean, when the remarks were first made, we felt -- we felt extremely hurt. We were saddened, deeply. And there's no more hurt than being hurt in the public eye in front of millions of viewers, listeners, and even readers.

And just her giving us strength, she has done that just by living her life. Just by being who she is. And that's why we exemplify her. We are -- we embody her. She embodies us.

I mean, and we're just proud to be a part of this Rutgers women's basketball family and we're just glad to be women.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One last question in the back.

DAVID LEE MILLER, FOX NEWS: Essence, or whoever would like to answer this...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you please state your name and affiliation?

MILLER: David Lee Miller. I'm with FOX News Channel.

Radio and television programming is a very valuable commodity. And I wonder, during this two-week suspension, do you have any thoughts what type of replacement programming MSNBC, as well as the CBS syndication service, should broadcast, possibly programming that could address some of these issues?

Any thoughts?

CARSON: Well, I have no clue what they would place in his timeslot. I believe they have people at the networks to figure those things out.

I mean, it could be highlights of Rutgers women's basketball games. But on a more serious note -- or, they can, you know, pretty much put in place programs that embody women. That just, you know, personify what it is to be a woman.

And, I mean, I'm no -- I'm no broadcasting genius, I'm not networking genius, but, you know, I hope that some good can come out of this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. This will end the questioning of the student athletes.

At this time, we need to excuse them so that they that can leave to go to class. We ask that the members of the media assembled here, please respect their schedule as they leave. And the president and coach and I will stay here for any additional questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will allow right now -- photographers, I know, have requested a joint -- a group shot of these kids, these young women. So right now is your opportunity.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: OK. And there you have it. What a -- what a news conference.

Well handled. Well handled by the Scarlet Knights of the university -- Rutgers University women's basketball team. The personification of young womanhood there.

They just held their heads high and handled themselves with such class and distinction in responding to the comments made by Don Imus on his radio show last week. In response to that, MSNBC and CBS radio both suspending Don Imus for two weeks.

And I guess the news out of the news conference is that the women's team has decided that they will take a meeting with Don Imus and hear his words and his apology for themselves. And then make their own determinations as to how the story moves forward, certainly in their own lives, from there.

But just a wonderful moment this morning. The women, Scarlet Knights of the Rutgers university women's basketball team, representing themselves so well this morning, right here in the NEWSROOM. HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Also, quickly, want to get this information to you, just as we are receiving it here at CNN.

According to CNN Turk, there has been a hijacking that took place on Pegasus Air. Apparently, a hijacker took over this passenger jet flying between Istanbul and a Kurdish majority city. It's called Diyarbakir.

The plane has now apparently landed in Ankara, Turkey, and apparently, a woman is also arrested now, taken into Turkish authorities' hands.

We are also hearing, according to CNN Turk, that there is still a man on the flight. He is suspected of being another hijacker.

So, at this point, we do know there were apparently 175 passengers on board there. Of course, we will get many more details coming up on CNN's "YOUR WORLD TODAY".

Thanks so much for watching, everybody.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

I'm Don Lemon. After the break, continuing coverage of the Don Imus-Rutgers women's basketball story. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. You're watching CNN with continuing coverage on the Don Imus-Rutgers women's basketball controversy here. Don Imus confronting the ugliness of his words and facing one of his most vocal critics. Imus appeared yesterday on a radio show hosted by civil rights activist Al Sharpton. Imus apologized for his remarks and Sharpton repeated his demands that the radio host be fired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: You call these people "nappy headed hos." But you wasn't talking racial when you said nappy. Jiggaboos and wannabes but you didn't understand what you were saying? What are you saying? You blanked out?

DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, I didn't -- no, no. Don't tell me I didn't -- I didn't say I didn't understand what we were saying. I said I wasn't thinking that. Now, if somebody says Jiggaboos and Wannabes, that, my frame of reference is a Spike Lee film.

SHARPTON: Right. Which was about light skin blacks and ...

IMUS: I understand that. But I'm not thinking that it was a racial insult that's being uttered at somebody. At the time, it's in the process of this, what we are trying to rap and be funny. I understand it's not funny. I understand there's no excuse for it. I'm not pretending there is.

I wish I hadn't have said it. I'm sorry I said it, but ...

SHARPTON: Let me ask you this, and we can talk about the that things you want to talk about. If you realize that something must be done, why would you then feel that we are out of order to ask that you step aside?

IMUS: I didn't say that.

SHARPTON: You don't think we're out of order?

IMUS: No, sir.

SHARPTON: So you don't think that? You've come here to sign your resignation?

IMUS: No. I'm not signing anything.

SHARPTON: So what are you saying?

IMUS: I'm saying you have a right ...

SHARPTON: Do you want to determine what ought to happen even though you were the one that did the wrong?

IMUS: I didn't see that, either.

SHARPTON: OK.

IMUS: I said, you have the right to say and do whatever you want to do. What I want you to do, and everybody else, everybody who is calling me a racist, everybody who is calling me a bigot, everybody who says, I don't know anything about him, I've heard people say -- I don't know what's in his heart, and I don't know, I've never listened to his show, but I want him fired. That's an ill informed decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Imus says his suspension is appropriate, and that he'll, quote, "try to serve it with some dignity."

The outrage over those comments by Don Imus, African Americans are furious. Womens groups are, too. The president of the National Organization for Women says Imus' words reflect a deeper issue still playing out years after the feminist revolution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM GANDY, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: The more progress women make in society, the more women move up, the more we are in law school and medical school, the more the higher jobs we have, the more the misogyny increases. A few years ago, it was the b-word, and now it's calling women "hos." It is absolutely is tied, in my opinion, to the advances that women are making, and we cannot allow our young women, our daughters to be called names like this, when they go out and do a great job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And that interview part of our continuing coverage here on CNN. Gandy also says Imus didn't offer much of an apology. She says, quote, "He didn't actually say he was wrong."

Well, anger, indignation. Minutes ago, we heard from the coach and members of the Rutgers women's basketball team. The team's first public comments on the racially-charged remarks by radio host Don Imus.

CNN's Jim Acosta is on the New Jersey campus. And Jim, that press conference still going on, I understand. The women on the basketball team have been dismissed but the head coach is still speaking. Any surprises there to you?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were lots of surprises. I don't think anybody here who is attending this press conference was really prepared to be blown away by what the coach and what some of the ladies had to say here.

It was unclear up until 11:00 the morning, just what these women would say. It was unclear as to whether or not they would have very much to say, but it turns out, they have a lot to say about this controversy. They have a lot to say about Don Imus.

Coach Vivian Stringer as you mentioned, I was looking at my watch. She was talking for a good 15 to 20 minutes about what this has meant to her, what this has meant to the team, and what is very clear, from all of this, is that this team, this coach, the university has been deeply hurt by the comments made by Don Imus, Coach Vivian Stringer recounting her own personal tale about when she was 16 years old and in high school, she was a young girl trying to join the high school cheerleading team and how she was discriminated against and not allowed to join that team until she overcame that adversity.

And was a pioneer, basically, during that time, and she has tried to teach that example to her teammates, or to her players through all of this, say, look, this is another example of a hurdle or of an obstacle that you need to overcome. And, one of the things that really stood out from Coach Stringer was when she talked about the young ladies. She described them as valedictorians, future doctors, musical prodigies and Girl Scouts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C. VIVIAN STRINGER, RUTGERS WOMEN BASKETBALL COACH: Is there malice in my heart, no, I'm hurt. But I do recognize that this issue speaks to a bigger issue. To utter such despicable words are not right. Whether spoken by black, white, purple or green, male or female, tall or short, skinny or thin, fat, whatever, it is not right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And one of the other players, actually, many of the players stood up and talked about all of this, after Coach Stringer gave them the floor. One of those players was Heather Zurich from Montvale, New Jersey. She talked about how this team started the season at 2-4. There were not sure where they were headed. She jokingly referred to how Coach Stringer said they were probably the worst offensive basketball team she had ever coached.

But then they went on this run, and went all the way to the finals of the NCAA National Championship. She said, while they are hurt, they are proud of their achievements, and that those achievements can't be taken away by Don Imus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATHER ZURICH, RUTGERS WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PLAYER: These are my teammates, my family. And we were insulted and yes, we are angry. Worst of all, my team and I did nothing to deserve neither Mr. Imus nor Mr. McGuirk's deplorable comments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And getting back to some of the matters at hand here, Don Imus, apparently, has worked out a deal, there's a headline in all of this, to meet with these young ladies. What we have been told here at this press conference is that, at an undisclosed date, at an undisclosed location, the Scarlet Knight basketball team here will meet with Don Imus, to accept what Don Imus has described as a personal apology that he would like to deliver to the young ladies.

No word yet, and actually the ladies here left the question unanswered, as to whether or not that they will accept that apology.

Don?

LEMON: And Jim, they said they have seen it on television, they have seen the headlines but they haven't gotten a formal apology, they say, from Don Imus.

And I was listening, Jim, if you just give me a second here, to Essence Carson, her interview stood out, when she spoke. She said, "I would like to express our team's great hurt and anger, disgust toward the words of Mr. Don Imus. We are highly angered at his remarks, but deeply saddened with the racial characterizations they entail."

And she went on to say that he basically stole a moment of glory from them, even though backhandedly he may not have realized that.

ACOSTA: That's right. And that's what -- that was part of what blew everybody away here. Is because up until this point, these women were silent about all of this, and what they came out and said today was that they were deeply hurt, and that they do feel, without a doubt, without any question this was racist garbage that came from Don Imus and they were deeply offended by all of it.

And so, getting back to whether or not they are going to accept this apology, I'm personally left sort of perplexed and questioning whether or not these women will indeed accept that apology, given the strong language that they used here to say, today, to say that they were deeply offended by what Don Imus had to say, Don.

LEMON: And Jim Acosta, thank you. They certainly, I'm sure you'll agree with this, they have been very gracious during this situation, just listening to their remarks.

CNN's Jim Acosta in New Jersey at a press conference at Rutgers University. We want to go to Chicago now and talk about the implications this has on media, specifically the mass media. Bryan Monroe is the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, and he joins us now by phone with reaction to this. Is this a pivotal moment, Bryan, when it comes to diversity and media, maybe diversity, if not that, language, certain language that's OK use and not to use?

BRYAN MONROE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK JOURNALISTS (on phone): I think this situation has shown how critical it is to have multitude of voices on the air, behind the scenes, and in the media, black voices, white voices, Asian voices, Hispanic voice, but before we talk about anything like that, we have to come back and look at those students we're watching.

Those students made us so proud, and Coach Stringer made us so proud with the words, the moving words, and how much this whole situation has touched them, has hurt them, and has left some deep wounds. You know, people are asking, should they accept apologies, should we accept the apology. We at the National Association of Black Journalists made it clear that what he did was reprehensible and be should not get off with just a two-week suspension. But it's not about us. It's about those students.

LEMON: But let me ask you about this. It is about those students.

But one of the students, and again, Essence Carson, she is the captain of the basketball team, her comments today, one of them, she said, "Not only has Mr. Imus stolen a moment of pure grace from us but brought us to the harsh reality that behind the faces of the networks that have worked so hard to convey a message of empowerment to young adults that some how, some way, the door has been left open to attack your leaders of tomorrow.

They are talking about the networks, they're talking about news, they're talking about diversity, even though it's about them, there's also a bigger picture here.

MONROE: Indeed. It has stolen their moment, and their moment, the University of Tennessee's moment, with the great game that was on Tuesday. And I feel them. My sister was an NCAA player for UNLV. And I know the hard work that these women have gone through.

For it to have been robbed from them, by a silly, intellectually lazy comment by a talk show host, that's had a history of this kind of stuff is just wrong. And for them to be supported by CBS Radio, by WFAN, and by MSNBC, I think two weeks is not enough. He's got to go.

LEMON: What are you asking for, Brian? What does NABJ want from this?

MONROE: In addition to Imus being off the air for good, all of the networks, and all of the radio stations that carry his show, need to look at how to increase the number of black voices and other voices of color on the air. How to make sure that there are journalists of color in their newsrooms, working stories like this, in the voice, part of the voices that make the decisions on what to air, whatnot to air. So that the full range of the American experience is reflected every day in the media. That's what we the National Association of Black Journalists is all about.

LEMON: And Bryan, I'm sure we'll be talking about that at the national convention coming up in August in Las Vegas.

MONROE: Yes, August 8th through 12th and if folks want to see more about this, go to our Web site, nabj.org. We are trying to taken in a lot from a lot of folks.

This has really been a tragedy.

LEMON: All right. Bryan Monroe, we appreciate you joining us from Chicago. Bryan Moore -- Monroe, rather, is the president of the National Association of Black Journalists. Thank you so much.

Continuing coverage here on CNN of the Don Imus controversy coming up just after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. Press conference just wrapping up just moments ago. This controversy going on with the Rutgers University, the women's basketball team, and also Don Imus, radio talk show host. They held a press conference just a short while ago. The president of the university spoke. The head coach spoke, and many of the women who these comments were aimed towards spoke out today. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD MCCORMICK, PRESIDENT, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Racism and sexism have not place in our society and completely at odds with our values as a university that celebrates diversity and civility.

We cannot stand silent and let these young women be unfairly attacked. They deserve our admiration and respect, they did nothing to invite the words that Don Imus used.

So, as a community, we have wrapped our arms around this team of student athletes in the hope that our support will see them through this painful moment in their lives.

ZURICH: We won 2 of 25 games to finish season before falling to Tennessee in the national championship game. We won the Big East championship along the way, the first ever, and advanced to the NCAA tournament. We shocked a lot of people and arrived in Cleveland at the Final Four. But this team did not settle for just showing up. We reached what many can only dream of, the NCAA title game. But all of our accomplishments were lost. Our moment was taken away. Our moment to celebrate our success, our moment to realize how far we had come. We were stripped of this moment by the degrading comments made by Mr. Imus last Wednesday.

ESSENCE CARSON, RUTGERS BASKETBALL PLAYER: I would like to express our team's great hurt, anger and disgust towards the words of Mr. Don Imus.

We are highly angered at his remarks but deeply saddened with the racial characterization they entailed. Not only has Mr. Imus stolen a moment of pure grace from us, but he has brought us to the harsh reality that behind the faces of the networks that have worked so hard to convey a message of empowerment to young adults that somehow, some way, the door has been left open to attack your leaders of tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And the young women on that basketball team have agreed to meet with Don Imus at an undisclosed location, not exactly sure when that is going to happen, but you can believe we're going to report it here on CNN as soon as it does happen.

Earlier in the NEWSROOM, we asked you, should Don Imus stay or should he go? We received over 1,500 responses and have read some of them to you this morning and here are a few more that I would like to read to you.

One of the viewers says, "I'm sorry but I think firing Don Imus doesn't do anything. It is OK for all of the filthy content of rap music, the rap musicians are constantly downgrading their own race, especially the black females. Is that OK?" That's from Gail McDow.

Another e-mailer writes, "Don Imus should be fired and barred from radio and television forever. It is time for us as a society to say enough is enough. We all know what is acceptable behavior and common decency towards each other. He should be made an example of." That one is from Rick Thompson.

I'll read one more for you. It says, "I'm guessing the two-week suspension reflects a vain hope the story will blow over and the money can continue to roll in to the MSNBC/CBS Radio coffers. But Imus needs to be held accountable for a truly egregious lapse." Thank you, Cheri Lovell for your e-mail, as well.

We're going to continue to follow this developing story right here in the CNN NEWSROOM all afternoon. We're going to be back in just a minute with a look at Don Imus' career and the controversies that have ensued.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, it's pretty obvious by now, Don Imus likes to talk and sometimes his mouth gets him into trouble. Here's CNN's Heidi Collins with a look at how Imus' career on the radio started.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don Imus started talking on the air in 1968, at a small radio station in Palmdale, California. And that's where he established his own-air persona. Brash, opinionated, and sometimes controversial.

In 1971, Imus moved to the big leagues. WNBC in New York City. His "Imus in the Morning Show" featuring his trademark tirades and insult humor become wildly popular. But a long running battle with alcohol and drug addiction got him fired in 1977.

After a stint in Cleveland, he then returned to New York. By 1988, his show was airing on WFAN, and he had made it a go-to forum for politicians and entertainers. His show was nationally syndicated and is now also carried by MSNBC.

But Imus is known for something else. His charitable work. In the '90s, he and his wife founded the Imus Ranch in New Mexico. It's a working cattle ranch where kids with cancer or those who have lost siblings to sudden infant death syndrome can get away and have the cowboy experience.

Imus has also spent millions of dollars to build a wing at a Hackensack, New Jersey hospital and the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, Texas for critically injured military servicemen and women. Heidi Collins, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Imus has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build a wing at the Hackensack, New Jersey hospital, a branch -- a ranch, I should say, for children with autism and cancer, and the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, Texas, for critically injured military servicemen and women.

Now, recapping for you, Don Imus, the gruff radio host ignited outrage with his words. Now the targets of the racially charged comments get their turn.

Just minutes ago we heard from members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team. Imus mocked the women on air last week and today, the coach and two teammates fired back with their first public comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARSON: I would like to express our team's great hurt, anger, and disgust towards the words of Mr. Don Imus. We are highly angered at his remarks, but deeply saddened with the racial characterization they entailed.

Not only has Mr. Imus stolen a moment of pure grace from us, but he has brought us to the harsh reality that behind the faces of the networks that have worked so hard to convey a message of empowerment to young adults that somehow, some way, the door has been left open to attack your leaders of tomorrow.

STRINGER: Is there malice in my heart, no. I'm hurt. But I do recognize that this issue speaks to a bigger issue. To utter such despicable words are not right whether spoken by black, white, purple or green, male or female, tall or short, skinny or thin, fat, whatever. It is not right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, Imus says he will not challenge his two-week suspension. But others, including civil rights activist Al Sharpton are demanding that he be fired. Echoing that call, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the National Organization for Women.

We're going to continue following this developing story throughout the afternoon here on the CNN NEWSROOM.. More in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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