Texans owner Bob McNair had a tense standoff with his players last season after he remarked, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” during an October owner-player meeting about the national anthem demonstrations. Star receiver DeAndre Hopkins skipped practice in protest; a number of Texans wanted to walk out; practically every player took a knee that following Sunday. Feeling a little bolder after free agency, McNair now says he regrets...his apology.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Beaton, McNair retracted his retraction:
“The main thing I regret is apologizing,” McNair says now. He insists the “inmates” he was referring to were not NFL players, but rather league executives who he felt had more control over major decisions than the owners. “I really didn’t have anything to apologize for.”
Ever since the comments first became public, McNair has maintained that he was not referring to the players as “inmates,” but rather league executives. That always felt like a dubious excuse cooked up after the fact, but either way this process of apologizing, equivocating, and then retracting the apology has not been handled smoothly.
Not satisfied with righting the injustice of having to apologize in public, McNair used his conversation with the Journal to further demonstrate what a piece of work he is. When recalling how offended Texans tackle Duane Brown was by the “inmates” comment, McNair told the Journal, “all Duane was trying to do was be a troublemaker.” He then offered this perplexing take on free speech and politics:
He rejected freedom of speech arguments in relation to the anthem protests. “As employers, we set conditions for all of our employees,” he said. “We don’t allow political meetings or statements or that sort of thing during working hours. You wouldn’t let somebody working at McDonald’s, when somebody pulls through, give them a hamburger and say, ‘I don’t know why you’re eating that beef, why aren’t you a vegetarian?’ You don’t allow that. Well, that’s freedom of expression.”
He added: “We need to stay out of politics. That’s been my message.”
If McNair really believes that the NFL should avoid politics, maybe he should think a little bit harder about who introduced politics into the game in the first place.