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The Righteous Scarlet Knights
Aditi Kinkhabwala
April 23, 2007
Rising above the slur—and a media circus—the Rutgers women show themselves to be a class act
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April 23, 2007

The Righteous Scarlet Knights

Rising above the slur—and a media circus—the Rutgers women show themselves to be a class act

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Imus was fired from his radio show by CBS on Thursday afternoon. That evening he kept his commitment to meet with the Scarlet Knights at Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion in Princeton. In addition to Stringer and the players, the Rutgers contingent included four parents and two grandparents and an aunt of the players, as well as the Reverend DeForest (Buster) Soaries, Stringer's pastor. Imus and his wife, Deirdre, got there first. Upon the team's arrival, at about 7:30 p.m., the players were taken into a dining room, where they were served sandwiches and told about the serious car accident that Corzine had been in on his way to the meeting. (He remained in critical condition on Monday, but his injuries are not life-threatening.) They took the sandwiches into the room where the Imuses were waiting. The chairs and sofas were arranged in a circle, and everyone sat down without shaking hands or making small talk. Imus and Stringer sat on either side of Soaries, who took Corzine's place as mediator.

Stringer spoke first, then Imus. By turns, each player said her name, hometown and career aspiration. Then they addressed Imus with questions, including "Why us?" They told him that because of him, they'd never had the chance to revel in their remarkable season. Brann told him about how the team had lost four of its first six games and suffered a 40-point defeat against Duke. (Stringer had locked them out of their locker room for all of January and taken away their Rutgers-issued practice gear because she felt they hadn't earned it. The five freshmen on the team had been so discouraged that they sat around arguing about which one of them their coach hated most.) Even though the Scarlet Knights began to play much better, UConn pounded them by 26, on Rutgers's home floor, in the season finale. Then the Big East tournament started, and Rutgers put together the most magical—and unexpected—run of Stringer's 36-year career.

Imus listened, then talked about his philanthropy work. Deirdre Imus, who later called Stringer and the players "unbelievably courageous and beautiful," cried as they talked and hugged each of them afterward. After three hours the Imuses left, but the Scarlet Knights stayed inside for another hour. The next morning Stringer announced that her team had accepted Imus's apology and wanted to move on. Although they have been reluctant to discuss the meeting in detail and say they prefer to let Stringer's statement be their final comment on the matter, the players feel that all the dialogue a bout race and gender caused by the case, however overheated some of it became, has been worthwhile. "From the moment the words were said, it became about more than us," says Carson. "If I were to be a pawn, I'd rather be a pawn for change than just a pawn for a basketball factory."

During her statement at the press conference, Carson had surveyed the assembled media and pointedly asked, "Where were these major networks when we were making history [on the court] for a prestigious university?" All nine of her teammates will be back next season, and Rutgers will be considered a top title contender. The Scarlet Knights open their season at George Washington on Nov. 18, and you can bet the cameras will be there for at least one game.

SI.COM/PLAYERS

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