Texans kneel in quiet protest of McNair’s ‘prison’ remark
SEATTLE - Two days after controversy created by comments from owner Bob McNair that enraged many players, the majority of the Texans opted to show their displeasure with a simple, quiet gesture at CenturyLink Field.
All but about 10 players joined arms and knelt during the national anthem before Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
“It was a lot of emotions going in for our team, just a huge sense of unity,” said Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown, an outspoken critic of McNair. “We all felt like playing for each other, forgetting everything else. Once kickoff was started, we tried to block out any more distractions we had.”
McNair has apologized twice in statements for his “We can’t have the inmates running the prison” remarks at a recent NFL owners meeting, emphasizing that was intended toward employees in the league office, not the players.
McNair, 79, didn’t attend today’s road game because of his health issues. McNair met privately with Texans players Saturday and expressed regret the day after wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back D’Onta Foreman left NRG Stadium and didn’t practice, instead taking personal days, as a direct reaction to what McNair said.
However, the issue remains festering for some players. Especially Brown.
Brown, asked to characterize how the meeting went, replied: “Uh, not too well.”
‘It is what it is’
The lineman also said he does not know if fences have been mended.
“At this point, we’re trying to play for each other,” he said. “I’m sure it will come up again. It’s the same as it was before. I said I wasn’t surprised. It is what it is.”
This marked the first time Texans players have knelt during the national anthem. Last year, Brown was the lone Texans player to protest during the anthem as he raised his fist during a road game against the New England Patriots. Earlier this season, the Texans stood arm-in-arm on the first weekend of leaguewide protests after President Donald Trump said owners should release players who didn’t stand during the anthem.
Protests over the treatment of African-Americans began last year when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem.
Roughly 10 players stood during the anthem. That included offensive linemen Nick Martin, Breno Giacomini, Xavier Su’a-Filo and Greg Mancz, linebacker Brian Peters, long snapper Jon Weeks and punter Shane Lechler.
“I’m never going to force anybody to do anything they don’t feel comfortable with,” said Brown, a strong supporter of Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter cause. “I think we all felt the same way on Friday. As far as the demonstration, some people didn’t feel quite comfortable with it. Some people did, but we all supported each other. I don’t think anybody looks at anyone differently for what they stood for or didn’t stand for.”
But despite McNair’s apologies and talk with the team on Saturday, the issue remains.
“I’m still upset,” Foreman said. “I still feel like some things shouldn’t be said, but you go to deal with it. … You have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything”
Criticism from Jackson
Meanwhile, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the noted civil rights activist, wants to have an extensive conversation with McNair.
Jackson was sharply critical of the remarks in a telephone interview Sunday with the Houston Chronicle. Jackson accused owners, including McNair, of having a “plantation mentality.”
Jackson added that there should be sanctions against McNair for his comments.
Jackson suggested that the NFL provide extensive details about what was said at the closed-door meeting regarding players’ national anthem protests.
“They really should make the minutes of that meeting public,” Jackson said. “I understand there were some other things said that were just as bad from other owners. They have kind of a plantation mentality. The players are objectified in some sense. Mr. McNair is a product of the South. They act like he’s a victim or misunderstood, but those players have made him a wealthy man.
“Mr. McNair said he’s sorry, but he also said what he said in an uninhibited way when he’s in a private meeting with the other owners. There should be some kind of sanctions. Other owners heard him talk that way, and they shouldn’t condone that kind of talk.”
No more protests likely
Going forward, Texans veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph said he doesn’t expect more protests from players during the national anthem.
“We didn’t want to take the focus away from the game, but obviously with a comment like that we wanted to show a sign of unity,” Joseph said. “But that’s over with and done. I hate that it was a distraction for the team, but it’s behind us.
“It probably put some fire into us more than anything. It was one of those things where when something happens you’ve got to respond to it. It’s definitely over with.”