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Bob McNair: ‘We can’t have the inmates running the prison’

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Brandon Paz

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In a recent league meeting between NFL owners, Houston Texans founder and CEO Robert C. McNair  commented on players protesting during the national anthem and its damaging effects to the business,  saying “we can’t have the inmates running the prison.”

As a result, Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins skipped practice Friday before the Texans’ game against the Seattle Seahawks, and many other players had to be persuaded to stay for the remainder of practice.

McNair issued an apology on Friday that was full of resentment over his statement , going as far as saying that he was not and “would never characterize our players or our league that way…”

The following day, McNair released another apologetic statement, almost backtracking  his first apology by stating that he was “referring to the relationship between the league office and team owners…”

Saturday, before game day, McNair set up a meeting with the players in an attempt to clear the air over his comments. However, offensive tackle Duane Brown (who was traded to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night) was outspoken on the situation, claiming that the meeting “didn’t go well.”

The issue carried into the game when all but 10 players decided to take a knee in unison during the playing of the national anthem. However, unlike prior times when players have decided to take a knee throughout the 2017 season, there was no vocal discontent with the protests from the fans.

As a fan of not only the National Football League, but the Houston Texans as well, I was forgiving of McNair’s comment after his apology. Without any real context to the situation, it  seems like McNair  slipped up and used the wrong figure of speech. However, once looking deeper into the problem, it extends beyond a poorly used expression.

McNair made the comments because of the damage protesting poses to the revenue of the league. On one side, the league is a business in the entertainment industry; on the other, the business is built off the performances of other human beings, a majority of which are black.

These human beings put their bodies at risk every time they step onto the field and should be seen of as more than “inmates.” Additionally, they have opinions and a large platform of which they can use to express their discontent with the societal injustices that are very prevalent in our nation today.

For the NFL and the Houston Texans, McNair’s comments are yet another layer added to the discussion surrounding racial injustices and police brutality. Additionally, the issue of the devaluation of others’ opinions in favor for profit has been brought to the forefront due to his comments.

The discussions surrounding these issues and their relations to sports are just getting started, and at this point, it is the best thing that could happen. The power of protest is starting to take it’s place and only time will tell where the league goes from here.

Meanwhile, outspoken players like Brown and players like Hopkins who skip practice bring light to, and fight the sad reality of, a big entertainment business like the NFL: Players get paid to play the game, not speak about sensitive topics. If your beliefs can cause damage to the revenue of the business, it’s best you keep your mouth shut.

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Bob McNair: ‘We can’t have the inmates running the prison’