THE BLOG

An Open Letter to the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team

04/11/2007 02:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

After watching your press conference today, I was not only extremely impressed with your team but deeply moved by your individual attitudes and demeanor. Your coach has set a powerful and articulate example for you.

I hate how this has happened yet I am grateful for the opportunity to learn of your wonder above and beyond the game you play so well. Most of all, I am thrilled you are teaching Americans and the rest of the world about racism and sexism that all too often goes unchallenged in the U.S. and wouldn't even be an issue in many countries around the globe.

As a former head coach for a women's college volleyball team and a career officer in the U.S. Armed Forces, I have seen and experienced my share of sexism and racism over the years. I have also seen progress and been afforded opportunities my own mother would have never dreamed possible for me.

I am concerned this situation may devolve into something that backfires. When a punishment is viewed as too extreme compared to the offense by those who identify with the offender, especially when the guilty party is genuinely contrite and wants to make amends, widespread resentment creates a backlash against the victims. What should be a victory for harmed innocents ends up becoming a punishment for everyone involved and takes the broader culture down with them.

I think Don Imus has voiced a number of things over the years that are terrible. It is high time he changed especially regarding racism and sexism because this kind of insensitivity and lack of understanding is inexcusable. On the other hand, he has demonstrated impressive qualities in caring for sick children, injured troops, and the victims of Katrina, clearly drawing attention to the issue of racial disparity. If this incident has finally broken through the remaining aspects of his denial, he could become a champion for ending this type of disrespect. He can also reach a lot of cowboys that we cannot and get them thinking in new and better ways because he is viewed as one of them.

If whatever he says to you implies a glimmer of hope, I hope you can find it in your hearts to recommend he not be fired but rather be put on some kind of probationary watch, for say, six months. If he does not make good on his promises by then, or has another slip, then he needs to go back to his ranch and stay there. If he does come through, however, we will all be the beneficiaries. A major national influence will be airing the right stuff in his authentic style that is distinctively Imus. No matter what he does ultimately, I am convinced that your choosing the high road of compassion will make you the bigger persons and lift the rest of us up with you.