PISCATAWAY, N.J. - The Rutgers University women's basketball team met last night at the governor's mansion with fired radio host Don Imus to discuss offensive remarks he made about the players.
A person participating in the meeting, which lasted more than two hours, characterized it as "intense, very intense" in a text message sent to a reporter. The person requested anonymity because the private meeting was still in progress.
The meeting was held at Gov. Jon Corzine's mansion near Princeton. Corzine was en route to the meeting from Atlantic City when he was injured in a traffic accident on the Garden State Parkway.
The street outside the governor's mansion was lined with television news vans. Reporters were restricted to a strip of grass near the fence, about a football field away from the mansion.
Imus, who is famous for interviewing - and insulting - political and media figures, has taken heavy criticism over his racist and sexist comments during his radio show last week when he called the Rutgers basketball players "nappy-headed hos."
The comments came a day after the team lost the women's NCAA national championship game, the culmination to their Cinderella season that saw them come back from some devastating early-season losses - including a 40-point thrashing from Duke.
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer described MSNBC's decision to pull Imus' television broadcast as a demonstration of moral fiber. CBS radio also decided to pull the plug on his morning broadcast.
Earlier yesterday, Stringer and her players appeared on Oprah Winfrey's TV show via satellite from Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers.
Rutgers player Kia Vaughn told Winfrey that the Imus comments completely overshadowed their amazing season - one their coach has called the most rewarding of her career.
"Our moment was stolen from us," Vaughn said. "Instead of us coming here to enjoy what we accomplished and how far we came, we had to sit back and look at media asking questions about what he said."
Stringer told Winfrey that she and her players never had "a purpose or an agenda" on whether Imus should lose his TV and radio jobs.
"We wanted to have an opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with him," Stringer said.
After the Winfrey interview, Stringer told reporters that she marveled at the level of public outrage over Imus' comments and the support for her team.
"For me, it's been 25 years to reach the championship game, and in 50 seconds, he said what he said," Stringer said.
The coach, who was leading her fourth team to the NCAA Final Four, said this experience has been "emotionally and mentally exhausting," and that immediately following the shock-jock's comments, she had no idea of the repercussions to follow.
But Stringer said Imus' comments go way beyond just her players.
"What woman reads this and cannot be personally touched?" Stringer asked. "It was always bigger than us, bigger than Rutgers University."
Imus' comments have thrown New Jersey's 50,000-student state university into the national spotlight and have made the women's basketball team one of the hottest topics of conversation.
"I thought it was pretty ridiculous to target a group of girls . . . They were just a group of girls playing basketball," said Rutgers senior Elaine Blatt, 22.
Other students said the situation was being manipulated by politicians intent on gaining some publicity for themselves.
"He's a shock jock. This is what he does," said Jason Moehringer, 20, a junior. He said while Imus' comments were "nasty," throwing the radio host off the air was a form of censorship.
The news came down in the middle of Imus' Radiothon on WFAN, which had raised more than $1.3 million yesterday before Imus learned he lost his job.