Posted on October 27, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
On Friday, the Houston Texans found themselves in the middle of a massive controversy that has nothing to do with football. The issue relates to comments made by team owner Bob McNair that have become public. McNair’s comments caused members of the Texans to consider walking out of Friday’s practice.
In an article published by ESPN Friday morning, McNair is quoted as saying “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” The statement appears to be with regard to some players protesting during the national anthem before games this season. McNair reportedly made the statement at the Fall League Meeting last week.
Roughly 10 Texans players came close to walking out of Friday’s practice after hearing about McNair’s statement. The team’s coaching staff was able to convince them to come back to practice. However, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins left the team’s practice facility and didn’t return. Head coach Bill O’Brien later said that Hopkins had taken a “personal day.” Multiple sources have confirmed that Hopkins left because of McNair’s comments.
“When it happened, there’s a thousand emotions going through your mind,” explained Texans left tackle Duane Brown. “Obviously, one of the emotions is to leave the building immediately. (But) we decided to go to work. The situation’s not over. It’s something that we’ll reconvene and talk about again, but we had practice today.”
The players who threatened to leave practice reportedly spoke with O’Brien, GM Rick Smith, and assistant head coach Romeo Crennel for roughly 90 minutes before deciding to return to practice.
The Texans are scheduled to play on the road against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. It’s unclear at this time of Hopkins will be accompanying the team to Seattle. However, if O’Brien saw it as an excused absence, it’s reasonable that Hopkins will play on Sunday if he wishes to do so.
“I’m 100 percent with these players,” O’Brien said after Friday’s practice. “I love these players, I love this coaching staff. We will show up in Seattle and play. We will play very hard. Seattle is a great football team with a great coaching staff. But we will be there when the ball is kicked off in Seattle.”
It was actually O’Brien who told the Texans players about McNair’s comment at a team meeting Friday morning. He was hoping that players would not be surprised when they heard about the comments later in the day from another source. It was a move that may have helped O’Brien, Smith, and Crennel convince everyone but Hopkins to remain at practice.
McNair has since issued a public apology for his controversial comments.
“I regret that I used that expression,” McNair said in a statement. “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.”
But the damage is already done. After Friday’s practice, Brown couldn’t give 100% assurance that he would play on Sunday, indicating that he “can’t stay quiet about it.”
Clearly, many Texans players are upset about the statement made by their owner. It doesn’t appear to be a situation that will be solved by McNair’s apology. If anything, it just adds another layer to the situation that has developed with players protesting during the national anthem.
“This is bigger than just the protests,” says Brown. “This is the view of player-owner relationship. This is how you view us. You’re an inmate. We can’t let you guys out of line. We can’t let you speak for yourself. We can’t let you have your own beliefs. That’s what it feels like. It’s a bad situation.”