The Rutgers Women Speak Out
April 10, 2007by Carol Jenkins “Mr. Imus has stolen a moment of pure grace from us.” Rutgers’ team leader Essence Carson, who said she and her team were “highly angered… and deeply saddened” by Don Imus’ remarks, said that the team had agreed to meet with the broadcaster at a private time and in an undisclosed place—to attempt to come to some understanding of why he insulted them. She said she hoped the world would understand that they are not attacking a major broadcaster, but attacking an issue troubling the country. Heather Zurich, another team member said, “He doesn’t know us…we did not deserve it.” Having come to no opinion of their own of what should happen to Don Imus—whether or not the two week suspension he’s received from CBS radio and NBC will be sufficient penance, or whether he should be fired—the meeting is only to hear what he has to say for himself. They have made no determination of whether or not to accept his apology. The young women clearly feel that all women had been insulted, not just black women, and not just the Rutgers team. According to Essence, “We’re just trying to give a voice to women who suffer from sexism. It’s not acceptable.” C. Vivian Stringer, the team’s coach, preceded the young women’s statements with an impassioned speech, attempting, and succeeding at recreating the accomplishments the team should have been receiving attention for: having come from a 40 point loss early in the season to beat all but one of the best women’s teams in the country. Instead of the bright light of success, they spent the post-season in a “dim light” of controversy. For more than an hour today, we finally heard women commenting on one of the most controversial episodes of recent times: even Jesse Jackson this morning implored the networks and newspapers to give black women a chance to speak about the Rutgers’ incident. With the notable exception of an op-ed by Gwen Ifill in the New York Times, almost all commentary and interviews since the break of the story has been given by men: Don Imus himself, of course, but then Jesse and Al Sharpton and a host of men weighing in on shows from early morning until night, and in columns across the country. It was a clear example of a missing element of media today: women, black women, given the stage to express their opinions—as experts—but also missing in great numbers in the media: hosting shows, anchoring network programs, writing high profile columns. Nearly a week after Don Imus ridiculed the young women, 18 to 22 years old, those women stepped up to the microphones to give their reaction to what has been described as Imus’ “hateful,” “deplorable,” “racist,” sexist,” “misogynist” words. Coach Stringer added a few words herself, describing a team consisting of “valedictorians, future doctors and lawyers, musical prodigies, even girl scouts.” Said Stringer, “Racism and sexism have no place in our society. We cannot stand silent.” Even as Imus tried to put the episode behind him, appearing on The Reverend Al Sharpton’s radio show yesterday to apologize—and filling his own show today with testimonials to his “good works”—the movement to drive him out picked up steam. Protestors from The Coalition of 100 Black Women and the NAACP picketed NBC headquarters in New York City—and Al Roker, the highest visibility African American at NBC, called for Imus to get the ax. Coach Stringer pointed out that the problem the words unearthed was bigger than Don Imus—she said it’s a problem in our society. “Maybe the women who taught us how to be winners on the basketball court, maybe they can teach us how to be winners in life. . . . This was a team that had so little and gave so much."