It’s not unusual to see athletes either skirting controversy in the understandable name of good business or suddenly developing principles when the “not guilty” verdict—or plea to a lesser crime—comes in. So it’s refreshing to see a case like that of Joseph Williams, a junior walk-on for the University of Virginia’s football program. As of February 23, Williams was in the seventh day of a hunger strike “to protest the economic and social injustices perpetrated by the UVa administration against the vast majority of the University’s service-sector employees.” In particular, Williams calls out top University administrators who are among the highest-paid state employees in Virginia while noting that hundreds of the University’s contract employees are paid as little as $7.25/hour. He also calls out the University for moral hypocrisy and calls for a living wage for University employees.
Williams, himself, comes from a difficult background. By his own account, he grew up as one of four children supported by a single mother and lived in 30 different places—several of them homeless shelters—before graduating high school at age 16. As a result, it would seem Williams knows a thing or two about living with economic hardship.
Of course, Williams doesn’t have as much at stake as did Michael Jordan when he reportedly commented that “Republicans buy shoes, too.” But there’s still something nice about seeing a student-athlete—and a football player, in particular—who is willing to tilt at some windmills in the name of his principles. And it’s nice to see him having principles before he needs them to repair a fractured image.
Tip o’ the hat to Dr. Saturday.