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Video of Rutgers coach hurling gay slurs prompts outcry, dismissal

Updated: April 3, 10:15 a.m.

Rutgers officials had already seen the video showing coach Mike Rice shoving, grabbing and throwing basketballs at players during practice and yelling gay slurs at them before it was aired by ESPN on April 2.

The school punished Rice in December 2012, suspending him for three games and fining him $50,000.

On April 3, the school announced Rice had been fired.

“Based upon recently revealed information and a review of previously discovered issues, Rutgers has terminated the contract of Mike Rice,” the school’s athletic department tweeted.

The video, which went viral, had many - including the governor of New Jersey - are wondering why Rutgers had let Rice keep his job.

The videotape, broadcast April 2 on ESPN, prompted scores of outraged comments as well as sharp criticism from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Miami Heat star LeBron James. The head of New Jersey Assembly called for Rice to be fired.

Rutgers' AD received a copy of the video in late November 2012 by a former employee. In addition to the suspension and fine, Pernetti ordered Rice to attend anger management classes.

In an interview with WFAN Radio in New York, Pernetti said university president Robert Barchi also viewed the tape last fall and agreed with the punishment.

But ESPN's broadcast prompted an outcry.

"Governor Christie saw the video today for the first time and he is obviously deeply disturbed by the conduct displayed and strongly condemns this behavior," spokesman Michael Drewniak said. "It's not the type of leadership we should be showing our young people and clearly there are questions about this behavior that need to be answered by the leaders at Rutgers University."

James weighed in with a tweet: "If my son played for Rutgers or a coach like that he would have some real explaining to do and I'm still gone whoop on him afterwards! C'mon."

The video shows numerous clips of Rice at practice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. Rice was also shown pushing players in the chest and grabbing them by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice could be heard screaming obscenities and gay slurs at players.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex/Passaic, called Rice's conduct "unacceptable not only at our state university, but in all circumstances. It is offensive and unbecoming of our state."

"Mike Rice should no longer be employed by Rutgers University," Oliver said. "He must go. Meanwhile, the decision not to dismiss him last year needs a complete and thorough review."

"You have to be always cautious about public reaction, because the reaction the public is having is the same I had when I saw it (the film)," Pernetti told the radio station. "I am factoring everything into what we do going forward. The most important thing I am factoring in is trying to make sure that we don't do harm to Rutgers University, because we are a small slice of the pie here at this great place. I don't want to put any negatively on the university when we have a lot of real good things going on."

Pernetti said he understands why many are asking why Rice wasn't fired after the initial investigation.

"I spent more time with that option on whether we should fire Mike or not than any other option," he said. "At the same the results of the investigation where we ended up, the determination was made to suspend him. My biggest concern as the AD is that I am always trying to protect the interests and reputation of the university and that's what makes this one so difficult. There is a lot of hindsight ... that there will be no other option than to terminate Mike. I made that decision. I am accountable for it. I have to live with it."

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) called Rice's conduct indefensible, and said he should have been fired in December, after the tape was given to Pernetti.

Gusciora also said Pernetti's decision deserved a full review.

"If the university does not act, I will seek to add a provision to the state budget defunding Mr. Rice's salary," Gusciora said. "Taxpayers should not be paying for this behavior."

Early on April 3, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights group, called for Rice's discharge.

“Mike Rice’s despicable behavior is completely unacceptable and Rutgers should fire him immediately.  What a disgrace for Rice to use such offensive and disturbing language as a means to intimidate players he is meant to lead," said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign.

"The pattern of behavior in this video is deplorable, inexcusable, in direct violation of the state's anti-bullying laws, and it's indefensible that Rutgers hasn't fired Coach Rice as a result," said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality, New Jersey's statewide LGBT group. "Further, why did the university wait months to disclose this disturbing footage? The apology and fine issued do not go nearly far enough."

On the Web…

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/9125796/practice-video-shows-rutgers-basketball-coach-mike-rice-berated-pushed-used-slurs-players 

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