Eastman: Diagnosing the hate for Caleb Williams

Caleb Williams graphic. - Multimedia Editor / Drew Peltzman

Last week, during an ESPN broadcast of a USC women’s basketball game, Caleb Williams went viral because cameras picked up images of his pink phone case and him dancing during an intermission. Social media users ridiculed him, using this video as irrefutable evidence that Williams is going to be the biggest bust the NFL has ever seen.

Unfortunately, this is just the latest incident in a string of events that has happened to Williams in the last six months that has turned a large portion of the NFL fan base against him. The level of hatred for Williams is unlike anything I’ve ever seen for a prospect entering the NFL. It is not an overstatement to say that Williams will be the most hated player in the NFL when he is drafted No. 1 overall in a few weeks. But is the outrage towards Williams fair? Has he actually done anything to warrant the criticism he has received? 

In short, the answer is no. According to his teammates, Williams was a great leader and an awesome teammate to have. This is a guy who gifted every single USC teammate with Beats headphones before the season started, making sure he used the platform he had thanks to NIL deals for good. 

So how did Williams start to gain a bad reputation? As a refresher, the two main events were Williams crying in his mother’s arms after a loss to Washington and Williams opting to not give his medical records to all 32 teams at the NFL Combine. Both those events received tons of media coverage, so I won’t spend too much time recapping that. Those events have created narratives around Williams, laying the groundwork for last week’s incident. 

Using a pink phone case as a deciding factor of whether or not someone will be a good NFL quarterback is new to me, but after really digging into it, the hate for Williams all starts to make sense. First off, a lot of people hating on Williams are Chicago Bears fans.

At first glance, it doesn’t make much sense why Bears fans would be so against their future quarterback, as Williams is a lock to be drafted by Chicago in a month. However, a lot of the hate stems from the Bears’ decision to move on from predecessor Justin Fields. As dumb as it sounds, many Bears fans were avid Justin Fields supporters and feel like Fields was done wrong by the Bears organization. As a result of the move, Williams was left to be the scapegoat for all of those fans’ frustration and anger.

The other reason why Williams gets hate is simply because of the way he expresses himself. Gen Z chooses to express themselves differently from other generations and Williams is a prime example of that. Yes, he paints his fingernails and yes, he has a pink phone case. That’s who Williams is, and that’s perfectly fine. The number of people calling Williams gay shocked me.

A simple Instagram search reveals that Williams does in fact have a girlfriend. Even if he were to be gay though, what is the big deal? Does being gay stop him from becoming a great NFL quarterback? If this is really the thinking, then we as a society have to do better with breaking down stereotypes.  

The other thing to keep in mind is that the social media users who are commenting on it would never actually say the same things in real life. It’s important to remember that social media is not an accurate representation of people in the real world. People are emboldened to say reckless things because they can hide behind a fake name and blank profile picture. No serious media personality is making the claims that Caleb Williams is a bust because he has a pink phone case, the idea is so laughable. 

As the discourse surrounding Williams continues to form, it’s important to take away a couple of lessons. Don’t put too much stock into what you read on social media.

I have read 100 comments that claim they know Williams will be an awful NFL quarterback because he paints his nails and likes the color pink, yet come across zero people who actually believe that in real life. The other thing, give the kid a chance. I love the talent Williams possesses and believe he will be one of the greats but truthfully, I can’t say he will be great with 100% certainty.

On the same token, we can’t say that he is an awful person and will never make it in the NFL with 100% certainty. If you don’t like Williams, give him a chance. You might be surprised to find that perception isn’t always reality. 

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