4-10-01, 8:15 p.m.
Updated: 4-11-01, 5 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Maybe Michael Basnight hasn't taken a snap in a NFL game since his rookie season of 1999. And maybe he's the third or fourth running back on the Bengals. But he still has a voice.
And he wanted to use it Wednesday in an effort to stop the violence racking the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati. On Tuesday, scores of people were injured in rioting that followed protests stemming from the shooting death of a black youth, Timothy Thomas, by a white Cincinnati police officer.
Basnight spoke for a few minutes on WLW radio Wednesday afternoon and then started work on putting music to a "Stop the Rioting," public service message he wants to send to Cincinnati television stations.
Basnight, no stranger to Over-the-Rhine, is preaching the non-violence gospel he has learned as a student of the Civil Rights movement.
He gets his hair cut on Vine Street and recently worked on his music career in a studio down there. He says some of the guys hang out his No. 35 jersey. He went down there Tuesday night and could only watch.
"It wasn't a good time ( to talk). I'm trying to find the right time," said Basnight Wednesday after working out at Paul Brown Stadium. "I think there's a better way to fight. It's so crazy. They're destroying their own things, that's what's even crazier."
Here's what Basnight wants to say: "I know you guys are upset. As a group of people, you're going through a lot of things right now. The important thing is to think smart and not do anything irrational or stupid, like destroying your own things. . .It gives the police a reason to retaliate."
Basnight, 23, a graduate of one of the old-line Black colleges at North Carolina A&T, is an African-American with a sense of history. He's giving 10 percent of his $175,000 salary this season to the William "Bill," Hayes Scholarship Foundation, which is named for his college coach. Half of the fund is devoted to scholarships for needy youngsters. The other half goes to the preservation of the nation's 110 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Basnight realizes the recent spate of police shootings involving African-Americans in Cincinnati has given rise to legitimate concerns, but, "they don't have legitimate actions at all. I don't condone any of the rioting. . . It's real important for people to realize rioting does nothing but divert the attention of the authorities from the actual case."
Basnight missed last season with a broken navicular bone in his wrist, but he still had a productive year. He published a book of poetry and is donating a percentage of the proceeds of "Deeper Than The Game," to the Hayes Foundation.
He says he's also going on a book signing trip April 26-28 to the two California schools that had shootings last month. Basnight's goal is to do a book signing at each of the 110 Black colleges during the next three years while he works on another book.
But he's also determined to make an impact on the field, too. After averaging five yards per carry as Corey Dillon's backup in '99, he couldn't get back on the field last year when surgery failed to heal by October the break he suffered in the team's late July scrimmage. He thinks another surgery performed in January will have him ready for this year.
"I'm from a small school. It's like playing the big schols," said Basnight of trying to get his message out. "At least I can sleep at night knowing I tried to do something."
HENRY STEPS TO FOUR: Former Steelers defensive end Kevin Henry officially joined the Bengals Monday when he signed a three-year contract. And for the first time in his eight-year career, he's now officially an end on a four-man line instead of a three-man line.
And he can't wait.
"I think my overall decision came down to how I fit in the scheme," said Henry, projected to play on the tight end side. "It gives me an opportunity to flourish in the NFL. In the Steelers' system, it was linebacker friendly. Instead of trying to just hold people up for the backers, I'll be able to do more of what I do best. Chasing down plays from the back side and containing."
Henry, who turns 33 in October, is here at the urging of head coach Dick LeBeau, his old defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. He wouldn't get into who might start among himself, Vaughn Booker and John Copeland at end, a trio with more than 300 NFL games.
"My contract doesn't pay me to make decisions like that," said Henry, who figures to average around $800,000 per year. "I like what they're trying to do there. I think it's headed in the right direction."
HEART IN FRISCO: Despite signing Henry, the Bengals are still intent on luring homegrown defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield. But that looked to be tough duty after Tuesday's scene at the 49ers' facility, where the Taylor High School product professed his love for the team that took him in the first round out of Kansas in 1993.
The 49ers don't seem to be able to come near the deal the Bengals offered when Stubblefield visited a month ago (believed to be about $2.5 million per year), but it sounds like it doesn't matter. The Bengals have tried a variety of approaches since, including a one-year deal, but got nowhere.
"It just felt like home again," Stubblefield told the Bay area media Tuesday. "If you put a little spy camera on my shoulder and went through this building with me, you can tell it was not purely about money. There's a lot of love in there on both sides."
More proof a deal is about to get done? The Niners asked Stubblefield to stay a few extra days, and he indicated his wife, a Bay area native, is out pricing homes.
"I don't like the idea of waiting," said general manager Bill Walsh. "Some other team might get him."
The club had this response to Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman's preliminary approval of a settlement between and among the plaintiffs, Hamilton County and the team regarding a lawsuit over seating:
The Bengals are pleased that a settlement has been reached to accommodate season ticket holders on their Charter Ownership Agreements at Paul Brown Stadium. The team's goal is to fully satisfy all season-ticket holders, and we look forward to quickly moving ahead with the next important step, a seat relocation program for fans who wish to move to different areas of the stadium.
Plans for this program have been in place for some time, but the Bengals had delayed its implementation pending resolution of the court case.
The Bengals regret there were fans who were assigned seats in areas less desirable than they had anticipated. We know that stadium construction is a complex and difficult process, and the mistakes in seating assignment were the result of ongoing design changes whose impact on seating zone locations was not realized at the time.
We believe that as a result of this settlement, and of the relocation program, our fans will be able to fully enjoy their 2001 accommodations at Paul Brown Stadium.
THIS AND THAT: Wide receiver Peter Warrick tweaked his ankle on the final pass of Monday's workout and took Tuesday off. "A real minor thing," said receivers coach Steve Mooshagian. . .
With the Buccaneers re-signing two free agents who visited Cincinnati in right tackle Jerry Wunsch (five years, $13 million) and cornerback Ronde Barber (six years, $18 million), there has been specualtion in the Tampa media that the club would cut defensive end Chidi Ahanotu. If so, the Bengals figure to be interested.