Unless you’ve been avoiding the sports highlights shows the past several days, you can’t possibly have avoided the ugly footage from last Saturday’s Cincinnati / Xavier skirmish, an incident that had Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters (above) briefly mulling criminal charges against the participants. “The idea that college basketball players could go to prison speaks to the worst kind of hypocrisy and the most twisted traditions of the city of Cincinnati,” argues The Nation’s Dave Zirin, “a place with a history of institutional racism that would make Mississippi blush.”
Cincinnati has spent the last decade trying to heal after the police shot and killed an unarmed African-American 19-year-old named Timothy Thomas in 2001 which led to the largest urban riots in the United States since Rodney King and the LAPD crossed paths in 1992. The Cincinnati riots were an expression of bottled rage against a police department that saw, between 1996 and 2001, fifteen African-Americans died at the hands of Cincinnati police.
Deters is a very ambitious political figure who was the local chair of the 2008 McCain/Palin campaign. Deters knows his base and maintains a friendship Jim Schifrin, author of a notorious Cincinnati rag described as a “racist political tip sheet,” The Whistleblower. Schifrin has been reported as having referred to Cincinnati’s first directly elected African-American mayor Mark Mallory as a “gay darkie,” and called Cincinnati Public Schools superintendent Rosa Blackwell “mammy.” It was also reported that Deters and Schifrin told jokes about President Obama being assassinated, a charge to which Deters never responded. When questioned about their friendship, Deters, said that this was his “personal life” and would not comment. This is the person who is now in a position to pass judgment on the players.
As Nathan Ivey, a talk radio rebel on Cincinnati’s 1230AM WDBZ said to me “Once again the Hamilton County Prosecutor is quick to deliver his very own brand of ‘Go-Go-Gadget’ justice. Joe Deters has an uncanny knack for pulling out the wrong gadget at the wrong time. In this case he should have used common sense. Instead he pulls out a flamethrower, choosing the classic Cincinnati knee-jerk reaction. From his political associations to his selective application and interpretation of the law, Joe Deters bungles and juggles justice so much, that I honestly can’t tell if he’s an officer of the court, or a clown yet another trait that he shares with Inspector Gadget.”