Most of the Houston Texans kneeled during the national anthem today pic.twitter.com/6KZt7oPcFQ— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 29, 2017
In what can only be described as the largest national anthem protest so far in the National Football League’s history, all except 10 Houston Texans players took a knee before facing off against Seattle Seahawks in Washington.
The en masse protest, which also included white teammates, was an example of unified front in response to Texans owner Bob McNair’s racially offensive comments about athletes who have been kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to raise their voice against systemic racism and use of excessive police force against members of minority communities — particularly African Americans.
The movement, initiated last season by former San Francisco 49ers star player Colin Kaepernick, got a jumpstart this year after President Donald Trump called the protesting players “son of a b****,” drawing harsh criticism and controversy.
However, McNair’s remarks almost eclipse that of the commander-in-chief.
“We can't have the inmates running the prison,” McNair reportedly said at a closed-door meeting with other team owners, referring to the demonstrations against racial inequality, according to the ESPN.
The teammates were so offended by the discriminatory remarks that Superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back D'Onta Foreman didn’t show up for practice. Moreover, Texans’ offensive tackle Duane Brown called McNair’s comments “disrespectful,” while other athletes considered a walkout, but according to reports, they were “persuaded to stay.”
“I think it was ignorant,” Brown told ESPN. “I think it was embarrassing. I think it angered a lot of players, including myself. We put our bodies and minds on the line every time we step on that field, and to use an analogy of inmates in prison, that’s disrespectful. That’s how I feel about it.”
It is important to note no Texans had knelt in solidarity with the movement prior to this game. Brown was the only teammate who had once raised his fist before the game to join in on the protest.
Meanwhile, McNair attempted to do some damage control and issued a non-apology apology.
“I was referring to the relationship between the league office and team owners and how they have been making significant strategic decisions affecting our league without adequate input from ownership over the past few years,” McNair explained — or at least, tried to. “I am truly sorry to the players for how this has impacted them and the perception that it has created of me which could not be further from the truth. Our focus going forward, personally and as an organization, will be towards making meaningful progress regarding the social issues that mean so much to our players and our community.”
No matter how he tries to spin it, McNair’s words were pretty clear.
Thumbnail/Banner: Joe Nicholson, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters