This past Friday, a report from ESPN surfaced in which they quoted Houston Texans owner Bob McNair saying, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison …” in reference to the ongoing protests of the national anthem.
In a time where some owners are not already viewed in the best light by many of their players and fans, this statement simply could not be more ignorant. The players consistently put their bodies on the line every week, risking injury and mental health. For the owner of the team to simply dismiss them as figurative inmates is completely unfair.
McNair issued an apology, and claims he didn’t mean for the statement to be derogatory or demeaning, as it is “a figure of speech.” However, it was still a poor choice of words, and the statement was sure to not sit well with most people.
Now, in wake of McNair’s comment, professional athletes across several sports are chiming in to voice their frustration with the “warden’s” comments. From Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and even now former Houston Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown, there has been a sizable movement of opposition toward McNair. It was also reported that several members of the Houston Texans roster skipped or considered walking out of practice upon learning of their owner’s statement.
An important question to ask is “What happens next for McNair?” While he is still respected by some, it will take a while for him to earn back the respect of his players and most of the league. There will be some who question if he should be allowed to remain an owner. After all, former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life after making derogatory and racist comments several years ago.
The national anthem protests have been a continuing demonstration by many players in the NFL since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the protest last season. The protests have trickled slowly into other sports as well, but are much more recognizable in the NFL. It has been frequently debated in both sports media and national news outlets whether or not the players should continue to protest.
Many owners disapprove of the protest as they fear it has caused a decline in ratings, ticket sales and overall revenue across the league. While all three phenomena are either happening or could very well happen at any point, it is still a topic of debate as the players’ rights to protest are protected.
I’m sure there will be an internal discussion by the NFL to determine how the league should proceed following the remark. Until more details emerge, it will be hard to tell how the league will handle the situation.