I must confess I know nothing about American football and the National Football League (NFL). To me American football is basically rugby dressed in armour - that's as far as my ignorance goes with this particular sport. I never really understood it, the time-outs, the zones, the fact that it is called football when, it appears, everything but the feet is used to control the ball.
I know little of the players either, in America they are idolized by adoring fans, many of whom hang on to their every word.
This post is about one of those players, or rather a former player.
Ricky Williams, according to Wikipedia, is a retired American football running back who played twelve seasons in the National Football League (NFL) and one season in the Canadian Football League (CFL).
I'm guessing that Canadian football is the same egg-shaped chasing game as American football.
Williams has been in the news recently as he plans to open a marijuana-friendly gym in San Francisco. Oregon live, a web-based newspaper, writes...
"The gym is scheduled to open in November and members will be allowed to use marijuana while working out. Should those members get hungry, Power Plant has a line of edibles specifically designed for pre and post-workout training.
"McAlpine said the gym will also offer a "cannabis performance assessment" to determine how marijuana affects workouts."
Each to their own, I guess. Personally, I can't see the benefit of working out whilst smoking, unless of course Williams plans to sell healthy looking cake to those pounding the treadmills?
Williams himself is a self-confessed user of marijuana and, believe it or not, is connected to one of the reasons I started writing this blog over 10 years ago. Here's why...
In 2002 an article appeared on USA Today* that reported how Williams was facing the demons of a (ahem) mental illness, namely; social anxiety disorder (SAD). Shortly after going public with this, Williams was contacted, and then contracted, by GlaxoSmithKline.
The official line was that Glaxo would pay him to give talks about his mental illness, talks such as the one featured here, where Williams mentions Paxil 4 times. It would be interesting to see the actual contract Glaxo offered Williams, you know, just to see if mentioning Paxil by name was part of the deal.
Nobody, up until now, knew of the figure Williams received from GlaxoSmithKline but I can reveal that it was a staggering $500,000, that's half a million dollars folks!
How do I know? Well, Ricky Williams told me.
I reached out to him on Twitter via his verified account here - To be honest, I didn't think he'd engage with me but it was quite refreshing that a celebrity saw fit to respond to a member of the public.
I didn't think for one minute that he would be so open regarding Glaxo's payment to him but I do have to thank him for his honesty. (See screen capture)
"Williams injured a shoulder in his second NFL season and missed six games, but still gained 1,000 yards. As he was recovering, he was induced by GlaxoSmithKline to be the celebrity patient in a campaign to sell Paxil to the 12 million Americans who allegedly suffer from “Social Anxiety Disorder.”
"Glaxo had to sell the concept that shyness is actually a medical condition “a chemical imbalance in the brain” that can be corrected by a pill. Williams, who is sincere and enthusiastic, gave interviews in which he thanked a therapist for telling him that his reluctance to be accosted by strangers at airports was an illness that could be overcome by medication."On a personal note, I think Williams was duped twice here. Once by his therapist for suggesting that his anxiety problems for his shyness was an 'illness' that could be treated by a pill, and twice by GlaxoSmithKline who sold him a lie by suggesting that social anxiety disorder is a result of a chemical imbalance. To date not one scientist at Glaxo, or anywhere else for that matter, has found evidence that depression or, in the case of Williams, social anxiety disorder, is caused by a chemical imbalance.
William's brief history with GlaxoSmithKline shows us how they were desperate to push Paxil as a pill to cure shyness - out of all those who suffer with shyness who would you say suffer more, children or adults?
Let's just go back to the interview Williams did with some members of the public on USA Today. One of the questions was from a concerned mother.
Port St Lucie, Florida: My son is 16 and having panic attacks. He has been on medication for 6 weeks. Which medication worked for you? Did you try a few different medications before finding the one that helped?
Ricky Williams: luckily, I tried Paxil first and it worked wonderfully for me.
I don't wish to start up some sort of witch hunt on Williams here, to be honest, I thank him for his honesty. He didn't have to say anything to me, much of what he did was misguided, particularly his thoughts on suicide, all of which can be seen below.
I wish Williams well in his new venture ~ I just hope he knows what he is getting into (this time)
*USA Article shown was updated in 2005