Several members of the Houston Texans NFL team considered staging a walkout from practice on Friday, over comments made by their team’s owner that appeared to compare players who kneel during the national anthem to “inmates.”
10 players, including Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, briefly left the practice facility on Friday, according to sources cited by ESPN. Most of the players later returned to practice, while coaching staff talked remaining players out of protesting. Left tackle Duane Brown later told ESPN that “we decided to go to work. The situation’s not over. It’s something that we’ll reconvene and talk about again, but we had practice today.”
Hopkins did not return to practice along with his teammates, a decision ESPN reporter Adam Schefter said was directly related to McNair’s comments. Texans coach Bill O’Brien declined to comment on any connection to McNair, saying only that Hopkins had taken a “personal day.”
O’Brien later said he expects the players, including Hopkins, to play this Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
“We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” Bob McNair said during a closed-door owner’s meeting earlier this month, as reported by ESPN the Magazine. McNair’s remarks drew immediate pushback from fellow league executive and former NFL cornerback Troy Vincent who, per ESPN, said “that in all his years of playing in the NFL — during which, he said, he had been called every name in the book, including the N-word — he never felt like an ‘inmate.'”
McNair apologized to Vincent during the meeting, and issued another apology after his remarks became public on Friday. “I regret that I used that expression,” he said in a statement. “I never meant to offend anyone and I was not referring to our players. I used a figure of speech that was never intended to be taken literally. I would never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”