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Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams was criticized on Monday for tweeting images based on Colin Kaepernick’s Nike ad to promote his new film Till.
Williams announced on Monday afternoon that he will be directing the film, which centers around the events following Emmett Till’s death. Till was lynched in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1955. His death made national news, revealing the prevailing racism of the Jim Crow area to the northern states. His mother, Mamie Till, famously had her son buried in a glass-topped casket to show the world what was done to her son.
On Monday, Williams tweeted two now-deleted images of the mourning mother at Emmett Till’s funeral. The black and white photos were overlaid with the campaign slogan from Kaepernick’s famous Nike ad.
Just saw a MEME OF MAMIE TILL AT HER SON’S CASKET WITH A FUCKING NIKE SLOGAN ACROSS HER TEAR STAINED FACE. I AM HORRIFIED.— Emotional Support Squirrel (@jennib3) September 24, 2018
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU @iJesseWilliams?!
A Black mother's pain at the horrific murder of her son should not be counted as "sacrifice" and even her decision for an open casket is not properly framed as "sacrifice" or something to believe in...— ⚖ (@JagunEsq) September 24, 2018
Please reconsider. This was not fully thought out, sir.
Williams’ decision to post the images led people to question his ability to produce a movie about Till.
Jesse Williams turned pictures of Emmett Till’s mom into a Nike meme...to promote the movie he’s directing.— DrmCatchr (@JaleelSpeaQs) September 24, 2018
I can’t lie this makes me question how he’s going to do with the movie pic.twitter.com/eDD38e9KZW
I know damn well Jesse Williams did not just make Emmett Till into a Nike meme. pic.twitter.com/K9BgrR0xUD— chy (@SpazzMuffins) September 24, 2018
Criticism of the images opened the door to backlash regarding Williams’s race (he’s biracial) and divorce last year from his wife, who is Black. Rumors circulated at the time that Williams left his wife for a white woman.
I never fell for Jesse Williams sorcery. When your self esteem is too low to ever believe a beautiful man will want you, you can hear what he’s actually saying over his loud face.— Rae Sanni (@raesanni) September 24, 2018
So Jesse Williams divorces a black woman and loses his good sense it seems...what is this?! Emmett Till wasn't a sacrifice he was murdered by white supremacy.— The Harlem Shimmy (@Say_Yes_2theJes) September 24, 2018
(Also too many people liked this bullshit) pic.twitter.com/i5ZlBRnuWh
I have no problem w interracial relationships at all. I do have a problem w insensitive people of influence. That pic can be interpreted as sacrifice your family to start a new, in his case w a white woman. @iJesseWilliams I'm sure you didn't mean that but WAKE UP! #TiLLtheMovie— Durwood Brown (@durwood929) September 24, 2018
Williams deleted the tweets but did not address the backlash.
Alexis Tatum studies journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. She's an editorial intern with the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Orange magazine and the Daily Texan.