NFL players are proposing to meet Monday in Philadelphia with league representatives in the wake of controversial comments made during a recent owners’ meeting by Houston Texans owner Robert McNair.
The meeting would include NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, McNair and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the players’ protest movement last season and recently filed a grievance accusing teams of colluding to keep him out of the league.
“Many players have been deeply troubled by the disturbing comments made by Texans’ owner Bob McNair,” the players said in a statement. “It is ironic that such a quote would emerge in the midst of an ongoing struggle to highlight injustices suffered by people of color, including our nation’s deeply flawed approach to criminal justice and inhumane treatment of imprisoned people. The events that have unfolded the past several days have upset and angered many players and continues to demonstrate the lack of seriousness that some league officials are approaching our discussions. It is this lack of earnest words and actions that provoke and reinforce the continuation of our protest.
“As long as the prevailing reality of our league includes a culture where owners feel such behavior and language is permissible, our cause will continue to be stifled and progress will remain elusive. This isn’t about being a player or a club owner — but basic human decency.”
The proposal came from a group of players known as the Players Coalition. It includes Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin and other players who have been deeply involved in community activism and have been pushing for league support of those endeavors.
NFL officials had no immediate public response. Many of them are in London for Sunday’s game there between the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns, and it is not clear if the offer to meet Monday will be accepted.
It had been thought that the two sides would meet Tuesday in New York. An NFL spokesman said last week that the league expected Kaepernick to be invited to that meeting by players.
Kaepernick did not participate when players and owners met Oct. 17 in New York, though Jenkins said afterward that Kaepernick had been invited. Kaepernick’s legal representatives issued a statement later that day saying that he had been asked to attend by players but received no official invitation from the league, while leaving open the possibility of Kaepernick participating in the future. The league said then it was up to the players to determine their representatives at such meetings.
The Oct. 17 meeting between players and owners was following by the owners’ regularly scheduled two-day fall meeting at a Manhattan hotel. The owners emerged from that meeting without issuing a requirement for players to stand for the national anthem before games. Goodell and owners said they believe that players should stand for the anthem, but some owners said they were focused instead on their discussions with players about community activism.
McNair reportedly told fellow owners at that meeting that “we can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
After the comment was reported by ESPN, McNair apologized for it. Texans players upset at the comment reportedly considered walking out of the team’s practice facility Friday. Some players, including wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, did leave. McNair met with Texans players Saturday and expressed regret about his remark. He said in another written statement that he his remark was meant to refer to the owners’ relationship with the league office.
The Texans play Sunday at Seattle.
“Regardless of our views, our disappointment and our frustration, we believe dialogue remains the only path forward; though our patience is being continually disrespected and is wearing thin,” the players’ statement Saturday said.
“As a result of what has unfolded and the league’s general posture, we propose an in-person meeting as an act of good faith …. This meeting will be hosted … with the goal of addressing our immediate concerns before additional progress can be made. Until the league publicly demonstrates its commitment to an actual process of listening to our grievances, we will continue to peacefully demonstrate for equality and justice for all.”