An agreement was reached - in part due to Imus' desire to save face and possibly salvage his career - for the team to meet with Imus. The meeting took place in the New Jersey governor's mansion; in attendance were the Scarlet knights, their coach, four player parents, two grandparents, an aunt, and Stringer's pastor (who served as mediator). Imus brought his wife Deidre.
Kinkhabwala, whose information of course was second-hand (since no media was present), reports that the players wanted to know, "why us?" They spoke of their rough early season (getting beaten big by Duke and UConn), and how their amazing streak during the Big East Tournament lifted them up, only to be shot down by the negativity of Imus' remarks.
Imus apparently told them about his philanthropy work, and his wife reportedly cried. In the end, the players told the media they accepted Imus' apology - no one could imagine them not accepting it and seeming to be heartlessly, hopelessly angry and too bitter to say the right thing - and Imus, according to Newsweek (Kelley, et al., 2007), "seemed genuinely apologetic."
WHAT IS the UPSHOT? Imus told the players "that making fun of people was just what he did," Kelley wrote in Newsweek. Imus went on to insist, "...He didn't mean to hurt anyone." Deidre later told Kelley that she could quote her husband's statement: "We want to know the truth here, we want to know everything you are feeling." But how could he not know he was hurting someone? How could he just offhandedly make seemingly hateful and obviously vitriolic remarks on national television about people he had never met and knew nothing about? This is what happens when a media personal gets too much power; he or she begins to forget that they do not have hegemony over their audience; they begin to believe they are like little Gods that can dictate the terms of their
Meanwhile, the debate as to whether or not NBC's firing of Imus was fair dominated the airwaves for days after the Rutgers' players had signed off on their acceptance of his apology. According to a Pew Research poll (April 18, 2007), 53% of whites and 61% of blacks believed that the punishment was fair. but, 35% of whites said the punishment (losing radio and TV jobs) was "too tough" - compared with only 18% of blacks who said the same thing. And 62% of whites interviewed said there was too much news coverage of Imus' remarks, whole only 31% of blacks felt the media covered the controversy too intensely.
All of those poll responses notwithstanding, when Imus got back on the air in December 2007, what about the corporate sponsors who were with him prior to his misadventure in April? Advertising Age (Hampp, 2007) writes that Procter & Gamble "backed out" of a sponsorship; General Motors did not immediately sign back on, taking a wait and see strategy; and Verizon, "one of the top spenders on the show's home station said it has no plans to advertise" with Imus.
The immediate red-hot controversy is long gone, but it has left a few lessons for other media personalities, whether they are fair-minded or bigoted. Even if you think in a racist and sexist genre, hold off on your hurtful comments. They have no place on the air, or elsewhere for that matter.
Hampp, Andres. (2007). Advertisers take wait-and-see approach to Imus. Advertising Age.
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Kelley, Raina; Starr, Mark; & Conant, Eve. (2007). A Team Stands Tall. Newsweek 149(17),
Kinkhabwala, Aditi. (2007). The Righteous Scarlet Knights. Sports Illustrated 106(7), 16-18.
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. (2008). Nappy. Retrieved May 8, 2008, at http://www.merriam-webster.com.
Pew Research Center for the People & the…
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