Both current and former Rutgers University basketball players are expressing support for fired coach Mike Rice.
Rice, 44, was fired Wednesday after a viral video showed the coach pushing, hitting and berating his players with anti-gay slurs, the Associated Press reports.
Several players spoke with Rutgers alumna, Natalie Morales, who is a co-anchor on NBC's Today show, about the video. Some of them said the video presents an incomplete picture of the former coach.
“They also don’t account for all the other things that go on in our program,” player Austin Johnson told Today. “Coach Rice has done a lot for me and my family.”
The incident at the New Jersey school comes ahead of the NCAA Final Four tournament this weekend. Rice's gay slurs came across as particularly embarrassing and troublesome following the 2010 death of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, who killed himself after his roommate posted a hidden camera video of him kissing another man in their dorm room.
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One former Rutgers basketball player, Sean Bannon, told Today, when asked if he ever felt threatened by Rice's behavior, “Not at all.”
“I think the large majority of the players felt the exact same way I did,” Bannon said.
Fox News host Eric Bolling said political correctness interfered with a fair decision over Rice’s firing.
“Our culture is in decline, but this is an example of our culture in free-fall and I’m saying because he got fired not because of what he did,” Bolling said.
Bolling also questions the university’s premise for Rice’s termination.
“There’s no question, he should have never used gay slurs that’s against all rules, but I’m not sure that’s what got him fired. Going after one of the kids is what got him fired.”
Gay rights group Garden State Equality has called for an investigation into the Rutgers administration and their stance on bullying and student harassment.
“New Jersey has the strongest anti-bullying legislation in the nation and it’s time they started to respect it rather than just giving lip service to it,” Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality, said at a news conference.
Still, others think Rice’s behavior was known to university officials before the video was released.
Some members of the Rutgers community question whether university president Robert L. Barchi knew about Rice’s behavior and tried to conceal it from the public. At least a dozen faculty members have signed a petition asking the school’s board of trustees to force Barchi to resign, and New Jersey state lawmakers have said they plan an investigation, according to the Today show.
Rice, who was in his third season as coach of the Scarlet Knights, apologized for his actions outside his home in Little Silver, N.J.
"I've let so many people down: my players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans, my family, who's sitting in their house just huddled around because of the fact their father was an embarrassment to them," he said.
Here's the video that led to Mike Rice's firing: