Among the several voices in the room who opposed the protests was Texans owner Bob McNair, who said of the protesting players, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
The account was relayed by ESPN, which published an article Friday detailing the league’s internal handwringing over the protests. McNair’s comments stunned some in the room, ESPN reports, with Patriots owner Robert Kraft delicately moving the conversation forward afterward.
Troy Vincent, a retired NFL player who now works as an executive for the league, told those in the meeting he’d been called all manner of slurs when he was a player, but he never felt like an “inmate.” (McNair later offered Vincent a personal apology.)
Representatives for the Texans and McNair didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment, but the team did release a statement in which McNair said his comments were “a figure of a speech.”
“I never meant to offend anyone and I was not referring to our players,” the statement reads. “I could never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”
Statement from Texans Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert C. McNair: pic.twitter.com/EXdwKZ4y4x
— Texans PR (@TexansPR) October 27, 2017
Texans players considered staging a walkout Friday in protest over the comments, ESPN reported. Ten ultimately left, but most were talked into staying.
Star wide receiver Deandre Hopkins reportedly opted to take a personal day in protest:
Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins’ absence from practice today was related to Bob McNair’s comments, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 27, 2017
All-pro left tackle Duane Browne also strongly voiced his dissent, telling media permitted into the locker room after practice that he had a “thousand” emotions going through his mind.
“Obviously one emotion is just to leave the building completely,” he said. “But we decided to go to work. The situation is not over, and it’s something that we’ll reconvene and talk about.”
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