Texans owner says ‘inmates’ comment was about league office in new statement

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For the second time in the past 27 hours, Texans owner Bob McNair has issued an apology for the controversial remarks he made during the NFL‘s owners meetings in mid-October. 

Although McNair apologized for his comment on Friday, he never really explained what he actually meant when he said that “we can’t have the inmates running the prison.” 

With Saturday’s apology, McNair tried to clarify things by pointing out that he wasn’t referring to NFL players when he made the statement and that he was actually referring to the league office. 

“As I said [Friday], I was not referring to our players when I made a very regretful comment during the owners meeting last week,” McNair said in a statement. “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.”

In his first apology, the Texans owner said he would never “characterize our players or our league” by referring to them in such a manner. 

“I regret that I used that expression,” McNair said in a statement from Friday. “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.”

The controversy with McNair started on Friday after ESPN ran a story that included inside details from the league’s owners meetings that were held on Oct. 17 and 18. One of those inside details was the quote from McNair regarding the national anthem issue where he seemed to insist that the league should just make the players stand. 

Although McNair insists he wasn’t talking about the players, it seems that others who were in the room with him felt differently. According to ESPN, McNair’s statement “stunned” the room. After McNair made his comment, NFL executive Troy Vincent, a former player, stood up and made it clear the he was offended by McNair’s comment, according to ESPN. 

Texans players were also offended by the comment, and two of them responded by boycotting practice on Friday

If McNair was referring to the players with his “inmates” comment, it apparently wouldn’t surprise Texans offensive lineman Duane Brown. Brown told Pro Football Talk on Saturday that he’s been alarmed by several comments that have come from the Texans owner. 

One of McNair’s remarks allegedly came after Clippers owner Donald Sterling was forced to sell the team following an incident where he was recorded making racist comments. 

“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, per Pro Football Talk. “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 said there was also an incident after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. 

“He came to talk to the team,” Brown said. “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.”

Brown also noted that the Texans sent him “to the wolves” after he protested racial injustice by raising his fist during the national anthem last year. 

“There was nothing said by [McNair] or the organization to back me at all,” Brown said. “[McNair] didn’t have anything to say to me.”

McNair spoke to the team in private on Saturday, but based on Brown’s comments, it appears that there’s at least one Texans player still upset with the owner.



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