Fans are livid after Jesse Williams used Nike’s slogan from its Colin Kaepernick campaign over memes of Emmett Till’s coffin and crying mother. See the movie promotion that went awry.
Jesse Williams, 37, might want to rethink the promotion strategy for his upcoming film about Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie. The Grey’s Anatomy star placed the slogan for Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick over a series of old photos of the lynched teen, his crying mother, and Emmett’s great-uncle, Moses Wright, to Instagram on Sept. 24. “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” the memes read over pictures such as Mamie standing by her son’s coffin, coupled with the tagline, “TiLL Coming Soon.” While that may have worked with an NFL star, Emmett was murdered at just the age of 14 for whistling at a white woman in 1955. Many fans thought that Jesse’s “memes” were so insensitive, he’s since taken them down. Well, save for one.
“Thank you for taking down those other bullsh*t ass memes. You need to delete this one too. This is not a game. I think you know that,” one Instagram user commented under the meme of Emmett’s great-uncle in court as he pointed out the men who beat and shot the teenager. Meanwhile on Twitter, users explained why Mamie didn’t make a “sacrifice” when it came to her son’s brutal murder. “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,” one user tweeted. Another fan tweeted similar sentiments, writing, “I feel like Jesse Williams intent was good, but just the fact that you’re using a pic of a mothers pain at a funeral while turning it into a Nike meme, is sort of distasteful and not thought all the way through. Maybe he could’ve used a pic of Emmett’s mom while she was smiling.”
Ironically, Jesse has been popularly known as one of Hollywood’s loudest critics when it comes to injustice. BET even honored him with the Humanitarian Award in 2016! On the same day he posted the memes, Jesse shared his feelings on his directorial debut, which will begin production in 2019. “I’m honored to be directing the story of Mamie & Emmett: a tale of revolutionary defiance in the face of tremendous personal and public devastation,” he told Deadline, as seen in a snippet of the interview he shared to Twitter. “An exploration of power and pulling back the curtain on cultural violence; of boyhood and maternity challenging America’s reflex to hide from itself; underdogs refusing to pretend that terror is freedom.”
The first set of photos, included in the slideshow above, are now removed from Jesse’s Instagram page. But he still stands by the message in the last Instagram photo, which remains on his feed.