On Friday, ESPN reported on an NFL meeting which intended to address the national controversy surrounding protests during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” During the convening, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair offered a troubling perspective on the players’ right to free speech when he remarked: “you can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
Understandably, some Texans players had a bit of a tough time going about business as usual on Friday. Texans coach Bill O’ Brien informed the team of McNair’s comments in the hopes of getting ahead of media when the story broke early Friday morning. The team held a 90-minute meeting to discuss McNair’s commentary — which was said amidst the already ever-present racial tensions in the NFL.
Some of the players intended to stage a walkout but were assuaged by coaches. Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins took a personal day.
“When it happened, there’s a thousand emotions going through your mind,” left tackle Duane Brown said. “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.”
Brown said McNair’s comments weren’t shocking nor should it deter players who came to work.
“This game, this locker room, this field that we play on isn’t just about him,” Brown said. “So it’s a lot of factors you have to consider when you step on that field. Definitely something that myself, and I think a lot of people in there, have to consider going forward.”
“This is bigger than just the protests. This is the view of player-owner relationship,” he continued. “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.”