Internet sensation in high demand

Published Jan. 6, 2011 12:00 a.m. ET

Last in the NBA's Central Division standings, first to offer Ted Williams a job.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are back in the headlines again.

The Cavaliers are still waiting to hear if Williams, the homeless man turned Internet sensation, will accept the team’s offer of long-term employment — an offer that stands even as Williams' history as a felon has gone public, too.

But now that it’s clear that Williams has managed to turn his 15 minutes into at least 24 hours, the Cavaliers have more than a little company in trying to bring Williams on board.

In an appearance on NBC's “Today” show Thursday morning, Williams said he had a deal to become the official voice of Kraft Foods. Kraft confirmed the deal later in the day. MSNBC also reports the network has hired him to record voiceover ads.

There have been more than 8.5 million views of the YouTube clip of Williams entertaining and thanking a Columbus Dispatch videographer alongside Interstate 71 in Columbus, Ohio, with the “golden” radio voice that Williams advertised on a cardboard sign.

The 53-year-old Williams worked in the radio business before problems with drugs and alcohol left him out of work and living on the streets either in 1993 or 1996, based on what he's told various media outlets since the video went viral Wednesday morning.


The Cavaliers were first to offer Williams a job doing voiceover work, and NFL Films was trying to reach Williams to make a similar offer. By the time Wednesday night's game vs. the Toronto Raptors tipped off, the Cavaliers had launched a website — — with links to his video and a forum for fans to encourage Williams to accept the team's offer, which includes housing provided by Quicken Loans. Cavaliers primary owner Dan Gilbert is the founder of Quicken Loans.

Presumably, the housing situation makes the Cavaliers’ offer unique. But now that Williams is back in New York — he was born in Brooklyn, and his mother still lives there — it’s hard to tell what his next step might be. He had listed his address as “streets of Columbus.”

Williams had a reunion with his mother Thursday as CBS cameras rolled.

By Wednesday afternoon, just hours after the video had started making its rounds, Williams had a promoter and was visiting various government agencies around Columbus in hopes of securing the proper identification to fly to New York for the “Today” show. He wore new clothes and sported a fresh haircut on the show.

Late Wednesday afternoon released a report detailing Williams' criminal history, and that report circulated throughout the Cavaliers' organization. But Cavaliers vice president of marketing Tracy Marek, who made the team's initial offer to Williams live on a popular Columbus radio show, said the team was still interested. Vice president of communications Tad Carper said Williams was very upfront about his past problems.

Before Wednesday night's game, Carper said the team hadn't spoken with Williams since Wednesday morning and that "nothing had changed" with the team's offer.

“They said they were going to give me LeBron’s old house,” Williams joked during his "Today" show appearance.

How this actually plays out remains to be seen, but the Cavaliers plan to be persistent despite the other offers and potential concerns.

''We're going to start with our heart first and start from the perspective that this is an amazing individual who has a lot of components in him that represent who we are and what our DNA is,'' Marek told the Akron Beacon Journal. ''Certainly, there are realities of a viral- and Internet-based world, but those are kinds of things we have to work through, get him out here and really have the opportunity to dig into those details.''

Williams was most recently arrested May 14 and later pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor theft charge. He has served time in prison for theft and forgery and has been cited with numerous misdemeanors.

On the “Today” show, Williams said he’s been involved with “no violent crimes at all. All thefts and fraud just to afford the drug habits. I never got anything with any serious time; the judges were lenient.”

Williams said he’s spent “the last decade” on the streets and spent years doing cocaine and crack. He said he’s always battled an alcohol addiction but, “I was a functional alcoholic. At least I thought I was.”

Williams said he’s the father of nine grown children, all of whom live in Columbus.