Thursday, April 12, 2001

Bengal Basnight wants to help stop violence

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bengals running back Michael Basnight gets his hair cut at an Over-the-Rhine barbershop. He has recorded music in a Vine Street studio. He has friends in the neighborhood.

        On Tuesday night, Basnight left his Northern Kentucky home and went to Over-the-Rhine because the rioting and looting there troubled him. As a professional athlete who is an African-American, he wanted to try to use his position to appeal for calm.

        His efforts continued Wednesday when he started searching for a radio or TV stump. He spoke earlier Wednesday at Paul Brown Stadium after participating in a voluntary workout with teammates.

        “I want to tell people to stop,” Basnight said of looters, who were reacting to the police shooting death Saturday of an unarmed black man, Timothy Thomas.

        “I want to say, "I know you're going through a lot. I know you're upset. But now is not the time to do irrational things. Two wrongs don't make a right,'” he said.

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        Basnight's social concern is consistent with how he lives. He is the author of a book of urban poetry, Deeper Than the Game,and he is preparing for a four-day book tour of Southern California later this month.

        He will visit Santee, Calif., where a high school student killed two and wounded 13 in a shooting last month. He is involved with a foundation that supports historically black colleges, and he donates 10 percent of his football and writing earnings.

        Basnight finished his book during the 2000 season, which he missed because of a broken wrist. He played in 13 games in 1999. He's excited about the upcoming season, but the social unrest in Cincinnati has weighed heavily on his mind.

        “I don't want people taking attention away from where the attention should be, on the shooting,” said Basnight, 23, a North Carolina A&T graduate. “People have legitimate concerns, but the actions have not been legitimate.”

        Besides being a bruising running back at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, Basnight is a student of the civil rights movement. Unfortunately, he said, many young African-Americans are not.

        Non-violent civil disobedience would be a more effective method for marchers to use to express their points: “It's like they're doing what the police want them to do, giving the police a reason to shoot them.

        “They don't have any connection with our history. What they're doing now is stupid. It's like throwing a brick at your own house.”

        At times like this, when the community is boiling, Basnight wishes for a higher profile as an athlete. He has only one career NFL start, in the last game of the 1999 season in place of an injured Corey Dillon, and he responded with 144 total yards.

        He wasn't sure how much he could accomplish in easing tensions in the city.

        “But I can try. I have to try,” Basnight said of his personal effort. “I'll sleep better knowing I tried.”


Violence worsens, spreads
Grand jury will probe shooting
NAACP's Mfume, city leaders meet today
Citizens terrorized by violence
Some business owners, residents felt targeted
Luken offers support to damaged areas
Ministers rally, then walk the streets
Panel's view: What should the city do next?
PULFER: Refusing to give up on the city
Residents try to comprehend destruction
Violence a sign of unsolved problems
Arrests mostly of young males
- Bengal Basnight wants to help stop violence
Reds urge end to violence
Parker: Problems have better solutions
Image worries downtown merchants
School activities address unrest