Dave Zirin interview with UVA Football Player Joseph WIlliams, Hunger Striking for Campus Workers

by E Wayne Ross on March 5, 2012

The Nation: Our Interview with UVA Football Player Joseph WIlliams, Hunger Striking for Campus Workers

Rare are the times when an NCAA football player at a Division 1 Bowl Championship Series eligible school stands up for issues related to social justice. The reasons for this silence are manifold. From their legal and organizational powerlessness as “student-athletes,” to the annual renewal needed for their scholarships, to just the sheer amount of time players are asked to invest in their teams along with their isolation from the broader campus, silence is often the easiest option. This is the first part of what makes the case of University of Virginia football player Joseph Williams so exceptional. Williams, along with a group of fellow classmates, is currently engaged in a hunger strike organized by the Living Wage Campaign. The group is demanding that the service employees who work on the campus receive wages that keep up with the cost of living in Charlottesville, Virginia. Williams is doing nothing less than risking his football career and his health in order to stand up for the voiceless on campus.

What makes this story even more remarkable is Williams’s own voice. His essay on why he joined the hunger strike makes for powerful reading. Our interview with him was no less impressive. This is a jock for justice, laying it on the line for a cause deeply personal to him. If publicity of his stand inspires other college football players to be heard, the NCAA will find itself in difficult and unchartered waters.