NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Rutgers women’s basketball team on Friday accepted the apologies of Don Imus after the disgraced radio personality got fired from both radio and television for calling them “nappy-headed hos.”
The racist and sexist remarks sparked protests from civil rights leaders and prompted advertisers such as General Motors and Procter & Gamble to back out before CBS Radio finally pulled the plug on Imus’ 30-year career on Thursday.
MSNBC, which had broadcast the “Imus in the Morning” show on cable TV had already fired the 66-year-old Imus a day earlier for the slur, made during his April 4 broadcast.
Imus had already apologized publicly for the comment but met privately with the Rutgers team late on Thursday.
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer said the team had begun to heal but added the incident spoke to wider problems in American culture, which is still struggling to overcome the legacy of slavery and discrimination.
“We have accepted Mr. Imus’s apology,” Stringer told reporters after a meeting with the Rutgers board of governors to celebrate the accomplishments of the team, which battled to the national championship contest but lost to Tennessee.
“This is not just Mr. Imus, it is not just Rutgers women’s basketball. It spoke to women, it spoke to sexism, it spoke to racism in our society,” she said, flanked by members of the team and Rutgers officials.
“Nappy” is a slur describing the tightly curled hair of many African-Americans. “Ho” is slang for “whore,” and is commonly used in rap music.
“It is time for we as Americans to hold ourselves to a higher standard” said Stringer, who emphasized the team had not called for Imus to be fired.
That discussion between the team and Imus was to be hosted by New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, but the millionaire politician was badly injured in a automobile accident while en route to the meeting.
Corzine was in the hospital, heavily sedated and breathing with the help of a ventilator on Friday.
While the type of language used by Imus is also used in rap music, Russell Simmons, a hip-hop pioneer in the popular rap group Run-DMC and founder of the Def Jam label, sought to distance such music from Imus.
“Don Imus is not a hip-hop artist or a poet. Hip-hop artists rap about what they see, hear and feel around them,” Simmons, who is also chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, said in a statement.
CBS will lose about $15 million in annual ad and syndication fees, sources told Reuters. Imus was CBS’ best known host since rival “shock jock” Howard Stern moved his show to satellite radio.
For years, Imus has insulted blacks, Jews, Arabs, gays, Catholics and women in bits interspersed with interviews with famous politicians and celebrities.
Supporters paint a picture of a kind man who worked hard to promote charities to help sick children and fight cancer.
He aired his last show on Thursday, a charity radiothon. His wife, Deirdre Imus, took over the radio charity drive on Friday, and called the team courageous and beautiful and said they bore no responsibility in the incident.
“If you want to send hate mail, send it to my husband,” she said.
Additional reporting by John Hurdle in New Jersey