ESPN host Jay Williams pens essay advocating for paying student athletes

Jay Williams

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ESPN host and former NBA player Jay Williams weighed in on the conversation on paying student-athletes on Thursday, publishing an essay on Medium.

Williams is a firm proponent of paying student-athletes and has a more education-orientated take on why they should be paid than what we've heard from most supporters. Williams, who was drafted second overall in 2002 by the Chicago Bulls out of Duke, played one season in the NBA before a motorcycle accident led to an early retirement.

Williams wrote in his essay that his accident was only one tough aspect of his story when his short stint in the NBA, and there were several challenges that he was not prepared for in college. 

"The business deals. The distractions. The moneymen who try to get close to you through your family and friends. The envelopes stuffed with cash. I'm talking about the game that surrounds the game," Williams wrote. 

"The reality of the matter is that on the court, these rookies can succeed from day one. But no matter what you can do with a ball in your hands, when you have to start thinking about the business of basketball — when you get in one of those rooms, rooms with briefcases and legal pads, signing contracts you don't understand for dollars you never imagined — it's disorienting."

Williams argued that student-athletes are barred from learning about money in a legitimate way since they are not paid in college, making them more vulnerable to those looking to exploit them unfairly when they get to the professional level. 

Williams has publicly spoken out about other social issues within and outside of sports, including race and civil rights issues. He is firm in his stance that he will not 'just stick to sports.'

"When I hear that line, it frustrates me, because you've had a lot of massive sports figures throughout the course of time who have stood for things bigger than sports," Williams said in an exclusive interview with Insider's Meredith Cash in August. "Sports are a platform that people utilize in order to talk about real-world issues that are applicable to them." 

Paying student-athletes is sure to be an issue that transcends sports in the coming years, as it crosses over into facets of business, politics, and civil rights.

Last April, The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) board of governors voted to move forward with plans allowing student-athletes to make money off their name, image, and likeness (NIL). The vote has since been delayed, but it could unlock millions of dollars in revenue for student-athletes across the entire American college sports landscape if and when it passes.

While the vote would be considered a major victory for student athlete's rights, some activists are pessimistic about it, citing it as a way to stave off broader reform. 

Williams did not take a stance on the impact of the NIL vote, but regardless, he seems committed to supporting wages for student-athletes. 

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