Texans Owner Demands Houston’s LGBT Opponents Refund His $10,000 Contribution

Houston Texans owner Robert McNair flanked by vice chairman D. Cal McNair. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/PHELAN M. EBENHACK
Houston Texans owner Robert McNair flanked by vice chairman D. Cal McNair. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/PHELAN M. EBENHACK

Earlier this month, billionaire Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans NFL team, donated $10,000 to the Campaign for Houston, a coalition working to defeat the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). That campaign has repeatedly attempted to demonize transgender women as sexual predators in an attempt to defeat the LGBT nondiscrimination protections.

On Friday, ThinkProgress received a statement from McNair declaring that he disagrees with the language the Campaign for Houston has used in its efforts and that he does not “believe in or tolerate personal or professional discrimination of any kind.” As such, he has demanded they return his campaign contribution:

I recently made a personal contribution to Campaign for Houston because my thorough review of the HERO ordinance led me to believe that a thoughtful rewrite would provide a better ordinance that would provide strong non-discrimination protections for all Houstonians, which I would support, and would be less divisive of our city.

It was on these principles that I made my personal contribution to Campaign for Houston. To my great dismay, Campaign for Houston made numerous unauthorized statements about my opposition to HERO in print, broadcast and social media — including attributing certain statements of belief to me. Their actions and statements were never discussed with nor approved by me. Therefore I instructed the Campaign to return my contribution.

I do not believe in or tolerate personal or professional discrimination of any kind. I also believe that we Houstonians should have an ordinance that unites our community and provides a bold statement of non-discrimination. I encourage all Houstonians to vote on November 3.

Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work together to change a small portion of events, and in the total of those acts will be written the history of our generation.”

Conservatives had praised McNair’s donation, claiming that it ruled out any possibility the NFL might pull the Super Bowl from Houston if HERO didn’t pass.


Richard Carlbom, director of the Houston Unites campaign advocating for the passage of HERO, praised McNair’s decision in a statement to ThinkProgress:

Like Bob McNair, many Houstonians are taking a step back and realizing the opposition’s ads on the Equal Rights Ordinance are intended to raise anxiety with outright distortions and quite frankly lies. When you take a second look, the Equal Rights Ordinance protects all Houstonians from discrimination and makes Houston a place everyone can be proud to call home. And that’s why the majority of small and large businesses in Houston support Proposition 1.

McNair had previously justified his donation by claiming that he believes Houstonians “should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect” but that HERO had “begun to separate rather than unite our community.”

Earlier this week, ThinkProgress reached out to McNair, highlighting the rhetoric the Campaign for Houston was using and asking if he agreed with the implications of requiring transgender men to use women’s restrooms.