Houston Texans owner Bob McNair acknowledged Friday that he put his foot in his mouth when he used the phrase, “We can’t let the inmates run the prison,” during a meeting last month in which player protests were discussed.
“I regret that I used that expression,” the 79-year-old McNair said in a statement Friday. “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.”
The apology was of little consolation for some athletes, however, who found the comment intolerable. Included among those offended were “about 10 players” on the Texans who walked out of the team’s facility Friday, according to ESPN. Among them was Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who the team said missed practice altogether, taking a “personal day,” according to CBS Sports. ESPN’s Adam Schefter, however, said his walkout was related to McNair’s comments.
With the exception of Hopkins, most of the other players returned, according to reports. That didn’t mean they accepted McNair’s apology, however.
“When it happened, there’s a thousand emotions going through your mind,” left tackle Duane Brown told ESPN’s Sarah Barshop. “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.”
As to what will happen Saturday, when the team is scheduled to travel to Seattle ahead of Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, that remains unclear. According to Schefter, Hopkins is expected to show up.
It’s not just Texans players who took offense to the comment. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Bengals wide receiver Brandon LaFell, Giants defensive tackle Damon Harrison and Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo were among the dozens of players who took to Twitter to express their disappointment.
Former NFL stars, too, had things to say.
As word spread of McNair’s poor choice of words, NBA players also started to react, including Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, who appeared shocked when asked what he thought of McNair’s comments at a Friday practice.
“First they were sons of bitches,” Green said, referring to comments made by President Trump last month that reignited the debate and seemingly drove a wedge between many NFL players, owners and fans. “And now inmates? I know some inmates. They don’t pay taxes. They’re not community leaders. They’re not (Malcolm) Jenkins flying to the White House, flying to D.C., doing all these things to make a difference. They’re not (Colin) Kaepernick, donating $1 million. . . . That’s unacceptable. . . . I wouldn’t personally want to play for somebody who viewed me as an inmate.”
Green also reacted to McNair’s justification of using the phrase by noting it’s a figure of speech. (The more common colloquialism is “inmates running the asylum.”)
“Agree or disagree, figures of speech aren’t okay in 2017,” he said (via the Athletic’s Anthony Slater). “If I come out and give a figure of speech that’s not socially okay, I’m going to get fined. I’m going to get ridiculed. . . . If you’re an inmate, you’re not playing. . . . So it’s a strong word to use about someone else’s kids again. It’s crazy.”
Other NBA players also offered reactions on social media.
It’s unlikely McNair will face further repercussions than widespread ridicule for his remark, as the divide between those who support player protests during the national anthem and those who don’t continues to deepen.
McNair, who donated $1 million to Trump’s presidential campaign, was one of just nine NFL owners who voted in favor of mandating players stand for the anthem, according to Friday’s ESPN article about last week’s meetings. His comments came on the tail of a long soliloquy delivered by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who also gave $1 million to Trump’s campaign.
Trump, meanwhile, last mentioned his disapproval of national anthem protests Monday, tweeting, “Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country.”