Ricky Williams was once the pride of Texas; now he can’t even take a walk around the place without police being called on him. A place where he was once a hero.
On Wednesday, Williams, a former running back for the Texas Longhorns, and who played 12 years in the NFL, was back at his old college in Tyler, Texas, for the Earl Campbell Award Ceremony when he decided to take a walk around 3:30 p.m.
Maybe area residents have forgotten what Williams looks like. Maybe they forgot that he was one of their cherished black men. He was a good guy. Either way, it didn’t take long for police to be called because a muscular black man walking in Tyler, Texas, is a crime and Williams should have known this. Maybe he forgot. Maybe he thought he was a free man. Maybe he believed that he could walk freely because not having criminal intent, and not being a criminal, was enough. Williams was wrong.
A homeowner near the Courtyard Marriott where Williams was staying reportedly saw Williams near his yard. His dog was barking. The homeowner spoke to Williams, who asked the man if he was looking for his dog.
Williams left. The homeowner called the police and reported “a suspicious person [was] behind his fence line in his backyard.”
That’s all it took for police to be dispatched. A black man near a white man’s yard is enough to involve police. Police won’t come to the scene of a car accident if no one is injured, but walk near a white man’s yard and they can come check it out.
Williams was found steps from the Marriott; police can even be heard saying, before approaching Williams, “That looks like Ricky Williams.” Williams was told to put his arms behind his back; he was patted down and checked for weapons; he was asked to explain what he was doing.
In the end, he was let go—you know, because he hadn’t done anything. But this is the experience of most free blacks; we all have a story of how we were stopped or harassed. Williams can be heard saying, “I didn’t do anything,” as if that alone is enough.
We all have a story about how our blackness became criminal—even black running backs who’ve become white heroes.
Watch the video below.