One has to wonder what Houston Texans players are thinking on Thursday.
Last season, Texans owner Bob McNair said in regards to the NFL players kneeling for the national anthem that the league couldn’t “have the inmates running the prison.” Players from around the NFL, and particularly the Texans, were offended and upset. McNair apologized. The story passed, at least until this week when McNair told the Wall Street Journal his regret wasn’t with the comment, but apologizing for it.
“The main thing I regret is apologizing,” McNair told the Wall Street Journal, via Pro Football Talk. “I really didn’t have anything to apologize for.”
McNair told the WSJ he was referring to league executives with the inmates comment, because they had more control over major decisions than owners, but that doesn’t pass a logic test. Even if McNair is telling the truth, the Texans owner certainly should be able to understand how players would view his comments as insensitive given the timing. Players and many owners weren’t on the same page about protests during the anthem. That Colin Kaepernick went unsigned all offseason didn’t help (and Eric Reid being unsigned this offseason is going to become an issue too, if that continues).
But McNair can’t even see, months removed from the comment, how players on his team would be upset about them. That’s amazing.
“In business, it’s a common expression. But the general public doesn’t understand it, perhaps,” McNair told the WSJ, via Pro Football Talk.
Even when you realize that “inmates run the asylum” is the more common expression, and including “prison” seemed like more than a simple faux pas, McNair is suddenly putting his players in a tough position.
Last season, after McNair’s comments, there was talk of a Texans boycott of some sort. Star receiver DeAndre Hopkins left the facility after hearing what he said. Many other players were upset. How are they going to feel now that McNair has said he shouldn’t even have said he was sorry?
McNair, who also said this offseason that Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson “didn’t mean to offend anyone” when he was alleged to have sexually harassed employees, is becoming a problem for the NFL too. Other owners might feel how McNair does, but they’re not saying it publicly. It doesn’t do anything for the tenuous relationship between the NFL and its players to have McNair saying he takes back his apology after players were offended by his comment. It’s not the best look for the league either for McNair to justify Richardson’s alleged sexual harassment, but that’s a story for another day.
The NFL, presumably, would probably like the whole issue to go away. At the league meetings last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sidestepped questions about what the league would do about the national anthem, instead discussing the social justice program that NFL owners agreed to match funds for. And if there was any progress in coming to some common ground on some of the issues, McNair seems to be trying to set that back.
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