Opinion: Texans Owner’s Comments Will Embolden Protests

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair
Feb 1, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans owner Bob McNair attends a press conference prior to Super Bowl LI at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

First, I do not know Texans owner Bob McNair at all. Before this, his name surfaces with the running of his team, acquiring Super Bowl rights and such. With that said, I do not know if he possesses any internal intolerance or racism. However, what I do know is he comments feel like he’s used that phrase more than once. At 79 years old, McNair does not appear to be the kind of person to implement new phrases. Under those circumstances, his “can’t have the inmates running the prison” comment speaks to a much deeper issue.

Last week, McNair uttered those words in reference to players kneeling. Immediately, NFL VP Troy Vincent called him out. Whether you are a fan of Vincent or no, he stood up for the right thing here. Yesterday, McNair issued an apology. While some would be quick to forgive, others should be less so.

The Context

Like many NFL owners, Bob McNair is a billionaire, far detached from the issues and problems facing minorities in the United States. Secondly, he believes that the national anthem is sacred and kneeling during that event is tantamount to disrespecting the military. That lie continues to be held as truth. Anyway, if you look at the heart of the comments, a disturbing visual bubbles to the surface. The thought of the NFL as a prison, run by 32 different owners serving as warden conjures up ugly stereotypes. Some already see the NFL as a bastion of lawless thugs. Yet, fans will flock to but jerseys and apparel depicting these players.

While the players are paid well, the prison specter of McNair’s comments hang over the entire league. Prisoners have few rights and are subject to the will of the warden. To his credit, if the players’ union continues its poor negotiations, that fact could become a quick reality.

Black players comprise 70 percent of the NFL. McNair’s message begins to clear. Owners feel uncomfortable with players, despite their great physical sacrifices having any say in the league. Moreover, the words lead some to believe that some owners feel exceptionally uncomfortable with Black players having a voice.


The Cop Out

McNair’s defenders will use his advanced age as an excuse for this statement. If McNair remains coherent and lucid enough to run an NFL franchise participate in meeting and speak to the press without supervision, being 79 is irrelevant. Also, stating “that’s how his generation talks” rationale is also inexcusable. McNair’s generation also voted for segregation and against civil rights, do we let that pass as well? If someone, regardless of age, but of clear mind, utters ignorance, they need to answer for it.

The Look

The same fans and media types that despised the kneeling will probably sweep these words under the carpet. Be that as it may, it only serves to solidify who they are and widen the chasm between various groups of NFL fans. For years, politics and division seeped into the NFL. The Stick to Sports movement lost a while ago. McNair pushes the widely held yet hushed beliefs in public view. In a weird way, he deserves credit for his honesty. The era of the fake smiles and playing for the camera is over.


The Fall Guy

In that meeting, McNair’s comments were a reaction to other statement made by fellow owners. Lost in the fact that Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones spoke at length about the kneeling protest before McNair even spoke. Yet, McNair is the one catching all of the heat. Jerry Jones is the master situation manipulator. Ironically, it was Jones that did not stand for the anthem during his first home game as Cowboys owner. He appeared busy, entertaining actress Elizabeth Taylor.  In a closed door meeting, he articulated his strong anti-kneeling view, but Bob McNair’s words are the only ones that anyone will remember. Somehow, Jones slides away, relatively unscathed.



After the comments, players from the NFL and others leagues took to social media and condemned McNair. Bob McNair is 79 years old, worth 3.8 billion dollars and appears to care little about the impact of his words. In addition, where are the other owners issuing strong rebukes? Their silence or weak replies speak volumes about this issue. For years, the muttering about the hired help mentality that some owners enjoy cascaded through the league. Now, those notions have a face.

The Houston Texans, as a franchise could eventually when the Super Bowl, McNair could hold the Lombardi. Yet, his words are now his legacy. With a locker room full of irate players and facing the Seahawks, McNair caused his players, team and league harm and grief. As a result, this topic will never fade from the headlines. Owners like McNair will keep talking, therefore keeping the hope of resolution alive. In essence, backward thinking and blurting out feelings are actually helping the movement. Life is weird.


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