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Jason Williams: The Power of the Pause

Jason Williams, a.k.a. “White Chocolate,” has teamed up with Powerade to remind athletes — and everyone — that it’s okay to step back and hit the pause button once in a while.

Jason Williams isn’t perfect. But even through a turbulent NBA career, complete with the high of a championship checked by several unfortunate lows, he’s not sure how much he would change about the past if he suddenly had the power.

He says that if he could go back, he’d sign every autograph and take every photo, rather than declining some of those requests from fans. But other than that?

“That shaped me and molded me into who I am today,” he told Boardroom of his past mistakes.

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Who Williams is today is a former NBA champion looking to help the next crop of professional athletes. He’s someone who has been through it all, from playing for a high-major college program at Florida to enduring the pressures of being a lottery pick for the Sacramento Kings to trying to grapple with expectations as he played for a total of four teams during a 13-year professional career.

Now, he’s teamed up with Powerade for its Pause is Power campaign, encouraging athletes to “hit pause” when they need to take a step back.

It’s the same campaign you’ve seen Simone Biles, who famously withdrew from the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021 to focus on her mental health:

“What bigger athlete on a bigger stage had to do what she did?” Williams asked. “That took guts. I think in the long run that Simone is going to be better from that.”

This campaign is important to Williams because he says he never had the opportunity to have those conversations, particularly around taking care of yourself mentally, when he was a player.

 “I don’t think you can do it by yourself,” Williams said. ” I think people need their coaches or their mentors, or just someone to talk to outside of their sport.”

Make no mistake: This is not the same era of sports that White Chocolate played in. The pressures are different, particularly in college, now that we’re in an era where players can earn money based on their name, image, and likeness rights. That just adds to the pressure to always be “on” — always in the gym, always getting better.

As Williams points out, in college and the pros, there’s always somebody coming for your job. In the NBA, there are hundreds of talented players clawing for a roster spot. In college, there’s always that next level of freshmen on the way, trying to earn playing time. And now, from college through the end of a player’s career, the brand partners are watching.

Jason "White Chocolate" Williams dribbling a basketball against the Los Angeles Lakers
“White Chocolate” won a 2006 NBA title with the Miami Heat. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

“I think student-athletes have a lot of pressure nowadays,” he said. “Every athlete is a human being first. So I think at some point in their life, they have to take a step away from their sport and really be a human.”

There are risks to that. As Biles saw firsthand, media and fans alike will take any pause as a sign of weakness and use it to question the athlete’s motivation or passion. It’s another downside to the hot take haven we call social media — Twitter allows athletes to stay in touch with their fans on a more personal level, but it also opens them up to waves of criticism from all corners of the Internet they’d otherwise never be privy to.

Though that might feel like another reason to always be on, it’s also a reason to pause.

“I think the media needs to be more conscious in their efforts — whether they wanna bash this guy or girl,” Williams said. “You never know. So I think you gotta be sensitive to that, and it could be serious or it could be minuscule too, but, just because it’s minuscule to you doesn’t mean it’s not big to them.”

In other words: The decision to pause is up to the individual, and they should not be afraid to take it. As the campaign states, Pause is Power.

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