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Texans’ D’Onta Foreman ‘still upset’ after team protests owner Bob McNair’s ‘inmates’ remark

Texans players kneel during the national anthem in reaction to owner Bob McNair’s “inmates” comment. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

No one is saying the NFL has a Donald Sterling-sized problem on its hands after Houston Texans owner Bob McNair insulted players by referring to them as “inmates,” but the look is nonetheless a bad one for a league struggling to pull the focus back onto the field.

McNair triggered an emotional weekend when ESPN reported he had made a reference to “inmates running the prison” in a recent meeting among owners and players to discuss converting national anthem demonstrations about social injustice into action. Texans players were furious when the comment came to light; some considered a walkout Friday, and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins left the facility. Although most were talked into returning by coaches, Hopkins’s absence was directly related to McNair’s comment.

McNair apologized and attempted to clarify his remarks to players Saturday, but reports indicated they were only angrier and, as they prepared for the game in Seattle, they met to decide how to protest. Ultimately, all but about 10 Texans players chose to kneel and link arms during the national anthem. The protest was overshadowed by one of the best games of the year, a wild, 41-38 loss to the Seahawks, by the time players were being interviewed.

“I’m still upset,” Texans rookie running back D’Onta Foreman, who had also walked out of practice Friday, told the Houston Chronicle. “I still feel like some things shouldn’t be said, but you got to deal with it. I was upset. I feel like my family that’s been supporting the Texans since they started the franchise and me growing up watching this franchise, a comment like that is definitely going to hit home with me.

“I have a daughter. Even though she’s young, that’s something you got to stand on morals and principles. I was brought up like that. You have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything. I want to be here. I love my teammates.”

Foreman had no carries Sunday, but neither he nor Coach Bill O’Brien said that was related to Foreman’s action Friday, and O’Brien said he supported the players’ decision to kneel “100 percent.”

In a Pro Football Talk interview that preceded McNair’s apology Saturday, tackle Duane Brown recalled that McNair had addressed the team after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. “He was visibly upset about it,” Brown said. “He said, ‘I know a lot of y’all are happy right now, but it’s not the outcome that some of us were looking for.’ That was very shocking to me.”

According to Brown, McNair spoke with players after private, racist comments by Sterling came to light in 2014, forcing him to sell the Los Angeles Clippers.

“The message was more to be careful who you have private conversations with, because things that you think are confidential can spread like wildfire,” Brown said. “In my mind, it would probably have been better if he said ‘don’t be a racist’ instead of ‘be a racist in private and make sure it doesn’t get out.’”

Brown added that McNair was unsupportive last season when he raised a fist during the national anthem.

“There was no backing of my character as a man, as a leader or a player,” Brown said. “There was nothing said by [McNair] or the organization to back me at all. They just kind of sent me to the wolves.”

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