Case #1920.0

Crossing the Line: Don Imus and the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team

Publication Date: April 18, 2008
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On April 4, 2007, talk show host Don Imus, while chatting with his sidekicks on his morning radio program, referred to the Rutgers women's basketball team--which had lost a college championship game the previous evening--as nappy-headed hos. This was not the first time that Imus and the regulars on his show--which was nationally syndicated by CBS Radio and simulcast on MSNBC--had ed racial and sexual innuendo into their early morning banter. Imus in the Morning had long been a show that alternated serious conversation with prominent politicians and journalists with crass locker-room humor and gibes directed at homosexuals, blacks, Jews, and other ethnic minorities, most of them figures in sports, entertainment, or politics. In the past, Imus had weathered occasional protests against his insulting brand of humor, but this time would be different. His remark about the Rutgers team was picked up by a liberal media watchdog group and posted, with an accompanying video clip, on its website and, later, on YouTube. Almost immediately, there was an outcry from black organizations and leaders, and calls for Imus to be fired. An apology by Imus did nothing to quiet critics, as other groups and individuals began to clamor for him to be taken off the air. Media coverage, spotty at first, expanded as protest grew more vocal. In a little over a week, the controversy came to a head. With advertisers bailing out and critics unappeased by apologies and a two-week suspension, NBC, and CBS abruptly canceled the long-running show.

Learning Objective:
This case can be used to foster discussion on the issues of race, freedom of speech, and the power of the press and mass media in the modern internet age.

Other Details

Case Author:
Esther Scott
Faculty Lead:
Alex Jones
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States