Daily Distraction: Read about Marcus Williamson's viral Rose Bowl thread

The Los Angeles Times recently spoke with the former OSU football player, whose gameday social media posts sparked significant debate

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marcus Williamson (5) celebrates a pass break up intended for Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Tre Mosley (17) during the third quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

On the day Ohio State played in the Rose Bowl, corner back Marcus Williamson, who recently retired from football, started what quickly became a viral thread on Twitter. “I wanna rap bout my career as a young black college athlete at the highest level. As guidance for u go getters coming up,” he wrote in opening in his initial tweet.

In the thread that followed, he called out former OSU coach Urban Meyer, as well as the entire collegiate athletic system, which has long profited on the free labor of student athletes, many of whom are Black. It was an incisive read: honest, damning and thought-provoking all at once. So, of course it generated immediate backlash, including from Meyer himself, who initially chimed in to say that one of Williamson's claims (that an image of Trayvon Martin was used in a team meeting to illustrate a "no hoodies" rule) was false, a point the coach later walked back once it was brought to his attention that, yes, that actually did happen.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times published a lengthy interview with Williamson, who talked reporter J. Brady McCollough through the day, discussing everything from the spark that led to his initial post on social media to the harsh, underdiscussed realities that go hand-in-hand being a player in a major college football program.

“So you start to say, like, is this really what we signed up for?” Williamson said. “And going back to 2020, the pandemic, to be playing in those conditions and to not be paid, enduring what was almost like a pseudo bubble in that we could not see our families if we wanted to stay safe to participate, not going to class, truly insulated in the facility and your apartment, you start to say, wow, it almost felt like we were essential workers.

“They needed us to participate to get some sort of revenue for what keeps a lot of things afloat, what is a staple in our communities, our cities, our states. Ohio State, Alabama, these sort of schools, are the pro teams of their cities. They’re the cult following of their states. The head coaches are the highest-paid employees in the state. So that just seems really off, especially when you consider the toll it’s taking on our kids.”

Definitely give the whole thing a read here.