Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 11, 2007
POP CULTURE: Sticks and Stones

So the Rutgers women's basketball team held a team press conference yesterday to respond to Don Imus:

Rutgers' outraged coach, C. Vivian Stringer, wiped away tears as she recounted her own battles with racism and said she won't let Imus "steal our joy."

Then each player stood up, walked over to the microphone and introduced herself.

Towering over her teammates, Vaughn gave a cheery "Good morning, everyone." But her broad smile faded as she opened up about the hurt she feels - as an African-American and a woman. "I'm not a ho, I'm a woman. I'm someone's child," she said.

The decision to hold this press conference is a horrible failure of leadership on the part of Stringer and anyone else in the athletic and academic establishment at Rutgers who let this happen.

To recap, for those of you just tuning in, radio 'shock jock' Don Imus is in hot water, and justifiably so, for referring to the Rutgers women's hoops players as "nappy headed hos," and a fair debate is to be had as to whether this proves that Imus is

(a) a racist and/or sexist;
(b) a boor and a moron with no sense of propriety;
(c) a cranky old coot whose brain is permanently addled by drugs having a 'senior moment' on the air;
(d) an aging shock-radio guy trying desperately to stay relevant by talking like a 22-year-old rapper; or
(e) my personal favorite, all of the above.

I'm not here to defend Imus, as his remark was indefensible, and besides, Imus endorsed and relentlessly touted Kerry in 2004, so let the Left defend him. On the other hand, as I have long argued, not everything that is indefensible is necessarily a capital crime. Imus has, appropriately, been given a two-week suspension for the same reason you hit the dog with a rolled-up newspaper when he poops on the living room rug. Whether he should be fired depends on what you think more generally about shock-jock radio, since this kind of thing is basically an occupational hazard of employing people like Imus. Of course, there's also the fact that Imus isn't funny (granted, I've never been a regular listener, and I first heard him around 1980 so I may be selling his early work short, but in my book a guy who is unfunny for going on three decades is not funny).

But here's the thing: whether or not they think they are just in the business of winning ballgames, college coaches are role models to their players. College students are at a particularly impressionable stage in their lives: finally old enough to first start to see adults as peers rather than distant authority figures, they naturally begin to model themselves on whomever they meet that most impresses them. Most college athletes - and I assume this is true of the Rutgers women as well - will not become professional athletes, and thus are preparing themselves for life and jobs in the real world. It is incumbent on their coaches to teach them lessons that will help them there.

Imus' remarks were crude and ugly, but the lesson Stringer should have been sending these young ladies is that they say a lot about Imus but nothing about them. Different people handle these things differently, but a coach worth his or her salt could have played this at least two perfectly reasonable ways. One is to laugh it off with the traditional "sticks and stones" attitude, and show the players that this really shouldn't mean anything to them; there will always be people who say inappropriate and mean-spirited things in life, and you shouldn't take that seriously. A more combative personality of the Bobby Knight variety would respond by taking some personal public potshots at Imus, drawing the story away from the players and into coach vs. shock jock; this would teach the players the valuable lesson that when somebody sucker punches your people, you hit them back in kind and teach them a lesson.

What you do not do is call a press conference like this:

"I want to ask him, 'Now that you've met me, am I ho?'" said Rutgers center Kia Vaughn of the Bronx. "Unless they've given 'ho' a whole new definition, that's not what I am."

Declaring that Imus has "stolen a moment of pure grace for us," the wounded women spoke out for the first time about Imus' racist radio remarks.

"This has scarred me for life," said guard Matee Ajavon of Newark. "I've dealt with racism before. For it to be in the public eye like this, it will be something I will tell my granddaughter."

Somebody gave these young women the message - or at least failed to disabuse them of the notion - that they should take Imus' words seriously, take them to heart. This press conference was a show of the coach and the players wallowing in Imus' words, embracing them, and thus elevating them as if any serious person would think less of them - rather than of Imus - for what Imus said. This story should never have been about the players, because Imus' words were generic (indeed, that's precisely why they were offensive). It's the Culture of Victimology at its most destructive, teaching these young women that they should consider themselves to have been genuinely maligned by an aging boor and to seek out the status and posture of one to whom a deep wrong has been done and who is owed.

Put more succinctly, when someone calls you a 'nappy headed ho,' you should not feel the need to call a press conference to deny it. Maybe these young women don't know that - but if they don't, it was the business of someone in a position of authority to teach them. Shame on Vivian Stringer and Rutgers University for failing to teach them that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Basketball • | Politics 2007 • | Pop Culture | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)

Good thoughts in general, Crank. But to me this was all about:

1. An aging, unfunny man trying to jumpstart his foundering career,
2. 10 or 11 college age girls getting their 15 minutes of fame, and
3. CNN and everyone else getting a short-term ratings boost.

In a sad way, I'd have been shocked if there was NO press conference. Welcome to 21st Century America.

Posted by: Mike at April 11, 2007 11:43 AM

I think this is more of the straw that broke the camels back for Imus. He has said much more vile things but now with ad revenue decreasing he is vulnerable. Now people have found a rallying cry.

Posted by: Javaman at April 11, 2007 11:56 AM

I am no Imus apologist, but here is what I am hoping comes from the meeting between Imus and the Rutgers players: 1) they are able to find a way to forgive (not forget) what he said and accepts his apology for what it should be. (Forgiveness coming from this private meeting would upstage those paragons of moral authority "Reverends" Sharpton and Jackson screaming for Imus' head.) 2) Imus makes a donation of at least $100,000 to the womens' athletic program at Rutgers 3) the team is invited to fly (at Imus' expense) to his NM ranch for cancer-stricken kids to run a basketball clinic, thereby giving the kids something to benefit from and the players a chance to see the positive work the man is capable of, as well as having contact with the kids, the ones who would be most harmed by Imus' firing. If sacreligious jerks like Opie and Anthony can find their way back to the airwaves, I see no reason why the I-man can't rise above this, albeit in time.

Posted by: James at April 11, 2007 12:07 PM

"and besides, Imus endorsed and relentlessly touted Kerry in 2004, so let the Left defend him"

Yup. As he's already in the midst of the Trent Lott Memorial Groveling Tour, the punishment ought to be stepping down as majority leader of the DC Media Establishment for a few year.

Posted by: Al at April 11, 2007 1:30 PM

I completely disagree. Like it or not, Imus has power simply by reaching millions of people every day. To many of his listeners who like and respect him, the lasting impression of the Rutgers women's basketball team is that they are "nappy headed hos." You don't think this whole ordeal was humiliating for them?
Standing up and sharing their pain was a way for them to reclaim their dignity and to show bufoons like Imus that their words have an actual, real impact upon people.
You're also completely ignoring the racial subtext -- a powerful white man hurling epithets at a less powerful group of black women. Shame, silence and embarrassment is not the appropriate response to that nonsense; standing up and expressing their anger was exactly the right thing to do.

Posted by: Ryan at April 11, 2007 2:13 PM

I'm just trying to wrap my head around the idea of these girls, one-by-one, relaying their trauma stories. When a daytime host of ESPN referred to southerners as "tornado bait," no such outrage ensued, nor was airtime given to any Alabamian trailer park resident. All I can say to the Rutgers gals is: jeesh. Get over yourselves. Sorry you got insulted, the guy who did it was a jerk. He's getting punished now. Show's over.

Posted by: tsmonk at April 11, 2007 2:14 PM

Those poor powerless girls. No one standing up for them. Except that Imus got suspended for 2 weeks. Major advertisers are fleeing in droves. Every network and talk radio show devotes hour upon hour to the defend the girls and blister Imus.

And of course, no one who heard what Imus said gave it the slightest thought. They certainly didn't let it affect their attitudes toward them.

Imus is jerk. What a shock.

If this is the worst thing to ever happen to those girls, they should be extremely thankful. Because this didn't hurt them one bit.

Posted by: stan at April 11, 2007 2:50 PM

tsmonk: I hope you don't believe an anonymous ESPN host dubbing southerners as "tornado bait" is equivalent to Don Imus calling the entire Rutgers basketball team "nappy headed hos." You're either being disingenous or completely ignorant about our country's history with racism. For you, I hope it's the former.
stan: While I disagree that the controversy didn't hurt these girls -- I'm quite sure that it pained and humiliated them, actually -- I'm equally sure that, in the end, they'll be happy that it happened. And that's a good thing. The PC police may be going overboard on this issue, but if it chastens idiotic comments like Imus', then it's worth it.

Posted by: Ryan at April 11, 2007 2:59 PM

Stan - You forgot to mention politicians all the way up to the President of the United States taking time out to rip Imus.

Posted by: The Crank at April 11, 2007 3:02 PM

Interesting counterpoint to all of this: the 3 Duke LAX players having all the charges dropped against them. Imagine if they were African-American and a white girl had accused them of rape, then they were dragged through the mud only to have the DA exposed as a lying manipulator. Imagine the backlash we'd be hearing from Jesse and Al about that. Those accusations actually cost these white men part of their lives, and where's the uproar?

But some worthless hack DJ goes on the air with some nothing comments and all of a sudden these girls can barely go on with their lives? Give me a break. You're right Crank, the entire Rutgers organization needs to grow up and see that there will be times that people act like fools toward you. It makes them foolish, not you. Imagine these girls trying to tell the Duke players how victimized they were and all they had lost with a straight face.

Posted by: Ryan at April 11, 2007 3:37 PM

Yeah, right. Making fun of people who lose everything in a natural disaster is so not near making fun of one's racially-specific appearance/alleged promiscuity. Don't know what I could have been thinking. The host was Colin Cowherd, by the way. He has a pretty wide syndication, last I checked.

I know full well what our track record with racism is. I've also heard enough "inbred" comments (another example) from syndicated hosts directed at people who live in one part of the country to know there is no (repeat, no) difference in vitriol and ugliness. Rather than lecturing me on our "history" try considering that it might actually be apples-apples.

Posted by: tsmonk at April 11, 2007 3:38 PM

PS - I made the post about the Duke LAX guys, not the same Ryan as a few posts ago. Just wanted to point that out.

Posted by: Ryan2 at April 11, 2007 3:41 PM

Just to be clear, I believe the Duke players were wronged, too, and much worse than the Rutgers team. And had they stood up and publicly explained what it felt like to be accused of rape, I would have applauded them. It's important for victims to show that these actions or remarks had a real, tangible impact on them. Sitting in silence helps no one and doesn't dissuade the next liar or idiot shock jock from continuing this nonsense.

Tsmonk: I'm not trying to lecture you. It's just that I don't find an stupid comment by Colin Cowherd to be equivalent to a racist and sexist remark by Don Imus. No one outside the insular sports world has heard or cares for Cowherd; past and future Presidents appear on Imus' show. It's just not an apt comparison.

Posted by: Ryan(1) at April 11, 2007 3:55 PM

Thanks for pointing that out Ryan2 - I thought you might have been schizophrenic (not that there's anything wrong with that). I am holding ESPN largely responsible for the disproportionate response Imus' comment has engendered. ESPN has suddenly held themselves out as heavy-handed moral watchdogs on PC issues ever since the Limbaugh affair on their airwaves. I find them blatently hypocritical however, in that they quietly released Michael Irvin post-season while earlier downplaying and covering up his ridiculously racist remarks about Tony Romo's family. I also thought it was very funny that Billy Packer basically told them to pound sand when they attamted to jump him over his "fag out" comment to Charlie Rose.

Posted by: rhodeymark at April 11, 2007 3:57 PM

ahem "attempted".
Crank - I have been hoping to have you update your Bosox outlook based on the rotation change and Papelbon outing. It also looks good for a Lester comeback sooner than later (and good for him, what a great kid).

Posted by: rhodeymark at April 11, 2007 4:09 PM

Okay, it's only stupid on one end (not bigoted or anything like that), but on the other side it's specifically targeting, and because one person interviews politicians while the other interviews jocks.

Imagine having lost your loved one in, say, the school in Enterprise, AL that got destroyed - then hearing that tool make a crack at the place you lived in your whole life, at your neighbors, at your loss. Then tell me who really has a right to be up in arms.

Posted by: tsmonk at April 11, 2007 4:13 PM

Well said, Crank. As for my 2 cents worth, there is supposedly still free speech in this country. If Imus wants to engage in boorish behavior and use coarse language on his show, that's his business. Let the audience/advertisers decide for themselves if that is the kind of show they want to support. Imus' groveling is disgusting. And the hypocrisy of Sharpeton reaming Imus a new one is nothing short of breathtaking.

Posted by: feeblemind at April 11, 2007 6:16 PM

Being a Howard Stern fan, I never liked Imus. However, in his honor, I listented to him today. His comments were crude and stupid, but certainly in keeping with his brand of humor. Now he's a racist. Was he one when he relentlessly tried to get Harold Ford elected in Tennessee (and Ford should defend him now).

Al Sharptin should get an apology from Imus when Sharpton apologies (and pays the money in the lawsuit he lost) to Stven Pagones (anyone else remember Tawana Brawley?).

The idea of comparing the Duke players, who were prosecuted and kept from graduating because of Nifong the gangster, to the Rutgers players, who were insulted by a big mouth is insulting. Also, I heard their statements on Imus--who must have desperately wanted to make fun of their frankly illiterate remarks. Kia Vaughn did NOT say Crank, as you wrote, "I want to ask him..." but, "I want to AKS him..." Which means they never learned right at home, and Rutgers didn't give a hoot about them as people and students, only as jocks.

Imus' comment was in poor taste, but like the N word, why is it proper to use when you are black, or singing rap, but not otherwise?

He got two weeks and that is fine. GM, Staples, P&G pulled their ads. I am thinking of writing them and letting them know that I will boycott their products unless they return to Imus' show, and if WFAN cancels him (I doubt it) then boycott the products of those sponsors too.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at April 11, 2007 8:35 PM

How the man acknowledged for his role as provocateur of the fatal Freddy's fire in Harlem claims the moral high ground, without provoking gales of laughter, I will never know.

Posted by: abe at April 12, 2007 7:40 AM

Okay people why do some much of white America thinks REV Al and Jesse speak for all blacks? I hate to inform you they are very unpopular in the black community we consider them front runners.
Another point, for the longest time the black community has protested against the negative lyrics of some rap songs. As most of you conservatives like to blame the MSM for not reporting the news, why have you not reported that? Funnier still the largest consumer of rap is suburban white teenagers.
Or my favorite is well black comedians say it all the time. Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle the first examples people shout out. This may be news to you folks but those two use the words in their comedy as social commentary to point out the hypocrisy of the word and how it is used. But then again why look beyond a cheap laugh you one may be forced to think.

Posted by: Javaman at April 12, 2007 8:29 AM

Javaman - did you read Jason Whitlocks article at the Kansas City Star? That dude is righteous, and it just goes to show (again) what a bunch of preening hacks they are at ESPN that he was too honest to be allowed to sit next to King Lupica.

Posted by: rhodeymark at April 12, 2007 10:01 AM

Read it earlier this morning. I agree with much of it, but has a few facts wrong like "black-owned radio stations". Sad to say there are very few if any of those anymore. But that is another story for another day.

Another note the rumor is about 30 MSNBC employees meet with management there and said they had had enough of Imus. I just think Imus got hit with the perfect storm the lost ad revenue gave all the people he has picked on the ammunition they needed to fight back.

Posted by: Javaman at April 12, 2007 10:16 AM

Whiny, racebaiting, glassjawed, soon to be lifetime victims ... under Al Sharptons keen guidance they may never have to think or work for themselves again ...

Posted by: Jeff at April 13, 2007 3:25 PM

I did not know that Rutgers, had outlawed rap music on campus, if only the horrid comments uttered by Imus offends them. No I personally have been offended about the pubescent mentality on the airwave especially by senior citizens. Why should any one care after generations of decline. If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they shall be governed by the ten thousand commandments.--G.K. Chesterton. Now let the ax fall on all. What about the hundreds of men who quoted the exact same words that Imus said; on radio, tv and during political debates, using the mass media to convey verbatim the same mental images? I guess it was the free shock hour out their FOR THEM. If they can speak those words with impunity when will the slip of the tongue get them? Straining at large gnats, and swallowing giant camels, these hippy cripes. Fire Me!

Posted by: Ira at April 14, 2007 1:11 AM

If the youth of our nation learn nothing else from this episode. may it give them pause when they consider the eternal question --

"Should we hire a stripper for the party?"

Posted by: John at April 14, 2007 11:39 PM

i find it ludicrus that all this righteous indignation and hurt is being expressed by a community that pays people huge profits to insult themselves ...every day ...for decades.
...and all they could come up with in response ... on tim russerts show was ...well ...things are changing ...rap sales are down 20% this year.
...give me a break.
...going after don imus for saying the same thing ... that snoop doggy breath gets big bucks to say...with serious consequences... to 10 % of americans ...and really to all americans laughable.

Posted by: all hat no cattle at April 16, 2007 12:30 AM
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