Texans owner Bob McNair met with players Saturday morning, one day after two players skipped practice and the entire team nearly boycotted because of his racially insensitive remarks.
McNair, speaking to the other NFL owners the day after league representatives met with players to talk about the issues involved with the national anthem protests, said, “we can’t have the inmates running the prison,” according to an ESPN report. The line sparked outrage across the league and the sports world.
He met with the team Saturday morning to express regret about the comments, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“I know they were upset,” McNair told the Chronicle. “I wanted to answer their questions. I told them if I had it to do over again I wouldn’t use that expression.”
Star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and rookie running back D’Onta Foreman skipped practice, and several Texans players criticized McNair for the analogy. Black athletes across the country were enraged by the line, which seemed doubly insensitive given the nature of the discussions the league is having with the players about being more involved in criminal justice reform and doing more to combat racial inequality. Head coach Bill O’Brien said he was “100 percent” behind his players, but assured they would be there Sunday to play the Seahawks in Seattle.
Several famous athletes, including Warriors forward Darymond Green, Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush evoked comparisons to former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was forced to sell the team after recordings of racist comments went public.
McNair apologized with a statement from the Texans’ public relations department Friday.
“I regret that I used that expression,” McNair’s statement said. “I never meant to offend anyone and I was not referring to our players. I used a figure of speech that was never intended to be taken literally. I would never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”
Several black athletes did not buy the apology, and continued to criticize McNair on social media, including Houston native DeAndre Jordan and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
The NFL setup the original meeting with the players to discuss the issues involved with the anthem protests in part because they have received so much attention this season. A big reason for that is because Donald Trump has attacked the league and its players for the protests in press conferences, at campaign rallies and on social media. Some players have joined the protest movement because of Trump’s attacks.
McNair donated more money to Trump’s election camapaign than any other NFL owner, Business Insider reported.
There is another meeting between league representatives and players about these issues slated for next week. ESPN reported it will be Tuesday, Oct. 31 in New York. Colin Kaepernick, the ex-49ers quarterback who began the movement by sitting and then kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness for about the mistreatment of minorities by police and general racial inequality, is expected to attend the meeting.
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