Dig In! Leonard Williams, a defensive end for the New York Giants, has created quite the stir for his bizarre ritual during a deep-sea fishing trip over the weekend. The 27-year-old NFL player was filmed digging into the body of a Bluefin Tuna before tearing its heart out and taking a bite.

The disgusting video was posted to Leonard Williams’ Instagram story, documenting the defensive end’s very first catch. “They say you gotta eat the heart of your first fish,” Leonard captioned the post. “Savage!”

Leonard ate the heart while it was still beating, according to reports, in a gross display of dominance. The weird ritual marked the NFL player’s very first deep-sea catch, but the odd display has sparked some big questions for the big football player. What on earth – or sea, rather – was he doing?

Well, Leonard ate the heart like a barbarian, but it wasn’t as barbaric as people think. The act was part of a tradition, in which eating the heart is part of a rite of passage. For many Native American tribes, eating the heart of prey was a hunting and fishing tradition. For those cultures, doing so allowed the hunter to absorb the qualities of the animal. Maybe it’ll help Leonard Williams on the field!

Leonard Williams, a New York Giants defensive end, took a video of himself eating the heart of a bluefin tuna. In some cultures, such practices are part of a tradition and rite of passage for hunters.
Leonard Williams, a New York Giants defensive end, took a video of himself eating the heart of a bluefin tuna. In some cultures, such practices are part of a tradition and rite of passage for hunters. Photo Credit: Instagram

While the disgusting display was part of a larger, cultural endeavor, Leonard’s act still sparked quite a bit of outrage from animal rights groups. The Blue Planet Society, which campaigns against the exploitation of the world’s oceans, was not happy that the Giants’ defensive end threatened the bluefin tuna. According to them, the fish is on the IUCN Red List, which marks it as an endangered species.

“Recently we called out Christian Pulisic for abusing a goliath grouper,” the animal rights groups wrote on Twitter. “Now it’s @leonardwilliams with an @IUCNRedList threatened bluefin tuna.”

The bluefin tuna is one of many marine species that are in serious trouble. The Blue Planet Society claimed that their plight is ignored by animal activists. The society then called out Leonard Williams on Twitter, claiming his actions were unjust and wrong.

“Imagine the outrage if this IUCN Red List threatened bluefin tuna was a land animal,” the Blue Planet Society wrote in the post. “Many marine species are in serious trouble and their plight is mostly ignored by animal activists. #FishAreWildlife

While many agree with the animal rights group, some pointed out that eating the heart of a fish is just like eating any other part – it’s good protein. According to MeatEater, it’s actually healthy (and part of a balanced diet) to eat the tongues, livers, and yes, even the hearts of fish. This is not only healthy for humans but can be good for fish species, too, since more meat can be cultivated per kill. This leads to smarter and more effective fishing practices.

Leonard Williams took a bite out of bluefin tuna, but not the way people think... He ate its heart while it was still beating!
Leonard Williams took a bite out of bluefin tuna, but not the way people think… He ate its heart while it was still beating! Photo Credit: Instagram

Authors such as Steven Rinella and Josh Niland have sparked the increased practice of eating all parts of the fish. Even more than an effective method of eating fish, some suggest the heart can be an effective method of cooking and “enjoying” fish. For many, raw fish hearts are tasty. The authors also point out in their book that fish hearts are especially good when cooked fresh.

Though it’s uncommon in the United States, fishing practices around the world don’t just suggest eating the heart of a fish but require it. To create more sustainable fishing practices, some cultures almost always eat fish from head to tail, including all the organs in between. Leonard Williams might not have been as barbaric as some fans think. He could have been thinking of the fish!

The New York Giants defensive end is bringing up big questions regarding fishing practices in the United States. More than that, though, fans around the country are curious: Was it any good?