Between the massive wrench COVID-19 has thrown into the lives of many Americans the past few months, and the Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the country in reaction to the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Abery and others, we are living through an emotionally challenging era of our history.
And when living in such times, it's easy to get caught up in the emotional responses, especially with a social media landscape filled with hyperbolic voices clamoring for our attention.
New Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Williams refuses to fall into that trap. As a black man from a small suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, who attended a relatively small university 25 minutes away, he's far from dispassionate about these topics. But instead of going with the flow of popular opinion, he's opted to use his social media platform as a place to ask challenging questions and seek differing opinions, as he formulates his own.
"I kind of want to look at people's avenues of trying to look at an issue," Williams said in a video conference with local media on Wednesday. "You know? Because we all don't have the answers, obviously. I just want to ask the tough questions and have people kind of think about it. I'm thinking about it. I'm not actually talking to anybody. I'm just tweeting it. I'm thinking about it myself. Just going through life that way."
A recent example saw Williams, who studied public administration at Samford, challenging the increasingly popular idea of defunding police departments.
"My whole thing is, I came from an economic background on that stance," Williams wrote. "From defending something, I got a lot of different people saying different things about it. My standpoint on it was if I have — economics 101 — if I have a product and I cut the cash to that product, what does that do to that product or service? I was just asking a question, and if we have servicemen and women that police our streets and we defund our departments, what is that going to do to the product or service?
"I think people would pretty much know the answer to that," Williams continued. "You got certain people that say certain things that that's not what defunding the police means. I was really asking the question to get some good feedback on it, see where people were coming from."
Williams declined to say whether his opinions have evolved based on any of the responses he received.
Conversations about these important societal topics have spilled into the workplace for professional athletes. As teams continue to meet virtually through video conferencing platforms, many of the sessions have become a time to exchange ideas with teammates.
Not surprisingly, Williams, as one of the new kids on the block after signing a free-agent deal with the Lions this offseason, has preferred to lean on his ears more than his mouth during these chats.
"I haven't even been to the facility," Williams said. "I mean, come on now. I haven't even been around the guys, physically, around my teammates, physically. I'm kind of a sit-back type of guy right now because you can only pick up so much on a virtual meeting. Stuff might cut in and out and you really don't get to know people on a personal level unless you're doing life with them — going to meetings, doing OTAs, doing the workouts and stuff like that.
"I kind of sit back, listen, see how guys are reacting to certain issues, and I think that's what we all need to do," Williams said. "I feel like we all need to take a step back and just listen to where people are coming from. Then you voice your opinion and then we meet in the middle ground. It's not one way or the other. It's lets meet in the middle ground and continue to progress forward. Let's not continue to go back and think about everything that's happened in the past. Let's acknowledge what's happened in the past and let's move forward."