The Houston Texans all got on the plane for the team’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, but that doesn’t mean the controversy over owner Bob McNair’s comments is over. According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Texans are planning some sort of group protest prior to the game. There are apparently a range of actions the team might take.
Earlier this week, an explosive ESPN.com story broke the news that McNair had said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” which was at the time assumed to be a reference to NFL players’ protests of police brutality and racism during the national anthem. The comment was not well-received in the room (it was said during an owners meeting), and McNair apologized to NFL executive and former NFL player Troy Vincent after the meeting — saying he felt horrible and this his words weren’t to be taken literally.
After the story broke, McNair issued another apology through the Texans’ PR staff, claiming the statement was not made in reference to the players.
Nevertheless, Texans players were offended enough by the statement that they reportedly wanted to walk out of practice, and it took a group meeting with coach Bill O’Brien and general manager Rick Smith to get most of them to stay. Star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and rookie running back D’Onta Foreman, however, went home for the day.
McNair met with the players on Saturday, then released another statement in which he claimed the “inmates” comment was a reference to the league office, not the players. “As I said [Friday], I was not referring to our players when I made a very regretful comment during the owners meeting last week,” the statement read. “I was referring to the relationship between the league office and team owners and how they have been making significant strategic decisions affecting our league without adequate input from ownership over the past few years.”
McNair’s comments have not been well-received in any part of NFL circles, with players from all around the league ripping him during the latter part of this week. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman even stated that he thinks Texans players would probably have boycotted this week’s game, if only their contracts were guaranteed.
This latest statement was apparently not the only time McNair’s comments have raised concerns inside the Texans’ locker room. Left tackle Duane Brown, who just ended a lengthy contract holdout, told Pro Football Talk in an interview that there were other things McNair said and did that caused concern.
When Brown was a rookie in 2008, Barack Obama was elected president. “He came to talk to the team,” Brown said of McNair. “He was visibly upset about it. He said, ‘I know a lot of y’all are happy right now, but it’s not the outcome that some of us were looking for.’ That was very shocking to me.”
After former Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught on tape making racist remarks in 2014, McNair addressed the team again. “The message was more to be careful who you have private conversations with, because things that you think are confidential can spread like wildfire,” Brown said. “In my mind, it would probably have been better if he said ‘don’t be a racist’ instead of ‘be a racist in private and make sure it doesn’t get out.'”
Brown also noted that after he protested during the national anthem last season, unlike players from some other teams, he did not receive any organizational support. “I protested [during the national anthem] last year, and there was no backing of my character as a man as a leader or a player,” Brown said. “There was nothing said by [McNair] or the organization to back me at all. They just kind of sent me to the wolves.”
The Texans declined to comment to PFT about the statements McNair reportedly made to Brown and others, but needless to say, this story is not going to go away anytime soon.