On Sunday afternoon, before the Houston Texans faced off against the Seattle Seahawks in Washington, all but approximately 10 Texans took a knee during the national anthem.
This was a direct response to Texans owner Bob McNair after an ESPN report on Friday revealed that, during a meeting with other NFL owners, McNair said the league needed to put a stop to protests during the national anthem because, “We can’t have inmates running the prison.”
McNair’s comments were particularly jarring considering that the protests — which began at the start of the 2016 season when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem — are a way to draw attention to police brutality and systemic racism, which the criminal justice system only exemplifies.
After McNair’s comments became public on Friday, many Texans considered walking out of practice; some even considered skipping Sunday’s game all together. However, almost all players — except for star wide receiver DeAndre Hawkins and running back D’Onta Foreman — opted to remain at the Texans facility on Friday, with players and coaches continuing to discuss McNair’s comments throughout the weekend. McNair issued two apologies, one on Friday and one on Saturday. He also reportedly spoke with the players directly on Saturday.
“As I said yesterday, I was not referring to our players when I made a very regretful comment during the owners meetings last week,” McNair said on Saturday in his second official apology regarding his comments. “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.”
But an unnamed player on the Texans told Josina Anderson of ESPN that he did not accept McNair’s apology.
“I think as an owner and as a business man that is something you can’t really say,” the defensive player said. “My reaction is: that’s unacceptable and I don’t want to even hear an apology, or anything like that, because I feel like you knew what you said because you were in a room where you didn’t think it was going to leak out; so you said how you feel. So, that’s how I feel about it.”
Prior to this Sunday, no Texan had taken a knee during the national anthem. Offensive tackle Duane Brown was the lone Texan to officially join in on the protests, when he raised a fist during the anthem before one game last season. Brown was vocal about his disgust with McNair’s comments on Friday.
“I think it was ignorant,” Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown told ESPN. “I think it was embarrassing. I think it angered a lot of players, including myself. We put our bodies and minds on the line every time we step on that field, and to use an analogy of inmates in prison, that’s disrespectful. That’s how I feel about it.”