PRINCETON, N.J. – Calling a three-hour meeting with radio show host Don Imus "very productive," Rutgers women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer said she and her team now want to put his racist and sexist comments behind them.
Standing on the steps of the governor's mansion in Princeton late Thursday night, Stringer briefly spoke with the media before boarding a bus with her players. She did not take any questions from reporters.
"I am very proud of these ten young basketball members," she said. "We had a very productive meeting (and) hopefully we can put all of this behind us."
Imus had drawn heavy criticism after he called the Rutgers players — eight of whom are black — "nappy-headed hos" on his morning radio program April 4. He made the remarks the day after Rutgers lost to Tennessee in the NCAA championship game, the culmination to a Cinderella season that saw them come back from some devastating early season losses — including a 40-point thrashing from Duke.
The comments eventually led to Imus being fired by CBS and MSNBC. He left the meeting without speaking to reporters.
Stacie Brann, a spokeswoman for the woman's basketball program, called the meeting "emotional." She said all the players who wanted to speak at the session were allowed to, and that the majority of the team did so.
"The team was very respectful of the fact that he showed up," Brann said, adding that at the conclusion of the meeting, Imus' wife hugged each of the Rutgers players.
"You could tell she was touched," Brann said.
Some of the players' family members also went to the governor's mansion for the meeting along with Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who had offered up his mansion as a private meeting place for the two sides to gather, was scheduled to attend the meeting, but was involved in an auto accident Thursday night while traveling to the mansion from Atlantic City.
Corzine was critically injured in the crash on the Garden State Parkway in Galloway Township, and underwent two hours of surgery for his injuries — which included a broken left leg, a broken sternum, a broken collarbone, a slight fracture of the lower vertebrae and six broken ribs on each side.
He was recuperating early Friday in the trauma wing of Cooper University Hospital in Camden, and his injuries were not considered life-threatening.
Speaking after the meeting with Imus, neither the coach nor Brann would say whether the team had forgiven the radio host for his comments, saying the team would release a statement later Friday.
Imus apologized repeatedly on the air to the Rutgers women, who announced during a news conference Tuesday at the university that they had agreed to meet with the radio host and hear what he had to say.
Since then, both MSNBC and CBS have dropped the host from the air — with the CBS announcement coming just hours before the meeting with Imus started Thursday.
But Stringer, who led the Scarlet Knights to their first NCAA championship game appearance, has repeatedly stressed that the team's goal was never to get Imus fired. She said her players simply wanted an opportunity to look Imus in the eye and have him see and speak with the women he had talked about so publicly.
The shock jock has a long history of caustic on-air comments, but his words against the Rutgers team hit a nerve with the public and with sponsors of his programs who rapidly began pulling their ads from the air.