How Ricky Williams Mastered The Art Of Messing With NFL Reporters Before It Was Cool

Ricky Williams

Getty Image

Ricky Williams is not just one of the most interesting people to play in the NFL but one of the most intriguing athletes period. His career was defined by his electric play on the field, the drug-related controversies off of it, and a generally unorthodox perspective on life that extended to the way he handled members of the media.

The running back made a name for himself as a running back at the University of Texas (interestingly enough, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies prior to enrolling), and he was selected by the Saints with the fifth overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft).

He quickly proved he had what it took to hang in the league, and he was a sight to behold whenever he stepped onto the gridiron. However, it was also pretty hard to ignore how he acted off of it, as he didn’t really fit the typical “NFL player” mold.

Williams was one of those guys who didn’t want football to consume his entire life, and it’s kind of hard to blame him.

However, it was only natural that would cause some friction with front office members who were worried the free spirit wasn’t committed to the sport, and the fact that he was clear he had other interests (especially when one of those interests was “smoking weed”) opened him up to plenty of criticism.

That particular habit led to Williams dealing with plenty of fines and suspensions stemming from positive drug tests, and in 2004, he abruptly retired after five seasons and decided to spend the time he would’ve spent playing in the NFL studying holistic medicine at a California school in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas (although he staged a comeback the following year).

Williams made it very clear he had plenty of issues with the league itself as well as the reporters tasked with covering it (and him) for a living. Of course, how you deal with frustrations says a lot about who you are as a person, and Ricky was able to figure out a very funny way to send a message toward the start of his career.

Ricky Williams sparked an overblown controversy by wearing his helmet during an interview

Ricky Williams on mic

Getty Image

Ricky Williams doesn’t come off as a very confrontational guy. He obviously wouldn’t hesitate to put other people in their place during a game, but he’s always seemed like a pretty cool, calm, and collected person who handles himself with a ton of grace.

However, as I mentioned above, he was not a fan of the media. He didn’t necessarily have beef with specific reporters but rather disliked the entire spectacle and the various duties he was expected to uphold as an NFL player who was contractually obliged to address them on a regular basis.

There were multiple instances where he supposedly “disrespected” the press by declining to take off his visored helmet while speaking with them, which was a fairly unprecedented move that raised questions about whether he was stoned while conducting the interview or dealing with the anxiety and other mental health issues he’s been incredibly candid about.

However, Williams eventually revealed his true motivation: it was really just a giant middle finger.

The RB said wearing the helmet allowed him to do what was expected of him while still maintaining some control and preserving his personal autonomy. By wearing his helmet, he stuck it to the reporters who didn’t get the images they were hoping for while taking some comfort in what he described as “an act of rebellion.”

Frankly, this is brilliant. There was no malice, no aggression, or breaking of the rules. He just did an interview in a helmet as a nice little “F*** you” to everyone who expected him to fall in line.

He’s obviously not the first (or last athlete) to take a similar approach, but he set a very good example for the likes of Clinton Portis and, of course, Marshawn Lynch with a master class in passive aggressive behavior.