Houston Texans owner Bob McNair reportedly likened NFL players to ‘inmates running the prison’ at a recent league meeting in New York.
McNair was reportedly speaking about the players who have protested inequality and police brutality against minorities by sitting, kneeling, or raising a fist during the national anthem.
The NFL owners met in Manhattan last week, where McNair, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reportedly spoke in favor of mandating that players stand.
‘You can’t have the inmates running the prison,’ McNair said, according to ESPN.
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair allegedly likened NFL players to prisoners
Former All-Pro cornerback and current NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent allegedly took offense to the suggestion. According to the report, Vincent said he has been called many racial slurs over the years, but had never felt like an inmate.
According to the report, Jones insisted that it was the owners who helped turn the NFL into a $15 billion-a-year business, so it should be the owners who decide what to do about the protests.
In a press conference follow the meeting on October 19, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he believes ‘everyone’ should stand for the national anthem, but stopped short of introducing anything that would compel players to do so.
When asked if teams will be allowed to punish players for sitting or kneeling, the Commissioner said he ‘can’t deal with hypotheticals right now’ adding that it ‘wasn’t necessary’ to discuss any rule changes with owners.
The NFL has been the target of public criticism from fans and President Donald Trump over players protesting during the national anthem.
Former All-Pro cornerback and current NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent allegedly took offense to McNair’s suggestion
‘Too much talk, not enough action,’ Trump tweeted after Goodell spoke on October 19. ‘Stand for the National Anthem.’
A billionaire in the fossil fuels industry, McNair is a staunch supporter of Trump.
A follow-up meeting is scheduled for October 31, according to ESPN. Those discussions will reportedly focus on how the league and players can team together to address issues that are being raised by the players’ protests.
Many, including Trump, have publicly admonished the NFL for allowing players to demonstrate by refusing to stand during the national anthem. The President has demanded that the NFL punish players for refusing to stand and referred to protesters as ‘sons of b******’ during a rally in Alabama last month.
Vice President Mike Pence left the Indianapolis Colts’ Week 5 game against the San Francisco 49ers after several 49ers took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.
Many San Francisco 49ers players continue to protest inequality and police brutality
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder (left) and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (right) reportedly spoke out against the protests during the recent owners meeting in New York
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said it’s his belief that ‘everyone’ should stand for the national anthem, but has not announced any new rule that would compel players to do so
‘I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,’ Pence said in a statement released by the White House.
Soon after Pence exited the game, Trump took credit for the idea.
‘I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen,’ Trump wrote on Twitter.
Trump has even suggested that the NFL should have to change its tax status if players continued protesting. However, the league ceased to be non-profit in 2015, and even before that change, individual teams were still expected to pay taxes on all earnings. The league does benefit from tax-payer funded stadiums and municipal bonds, which also contribute to the funding of those facilities.
In September the President threatened that the NFL’s business would ‘go to hell’ if players continued to protest, and he might be right.
Over the first six weeks of the season, the NFL’s total viewership has dropped about 7.5 percent when compared with the same time frame in 2016, according to metrics from Nielsen. And compared to the first six weeks of the 2015 season, NFL ratings are down 18.7 percent, according to ESPN.
Trump responded to Goodell’s press conference by repeating his demand that players stand
Goodell also acknowledged that the issue of anthem protests is important to the league’s sponsors and television partners, such as ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC.
‘They understand the issues,’ Goodell said. ‘We want to make sure they understand what we are doing and if they can help us, we want them to help us in those issues. All of this is part of the ongoing effort and the understanding of one another, and making sure that we do the right thing in our communities and the right thing to support our players, but also do the right thing to make sure we get back to football.’
Goodell was asked about the apparent split between fans along political lines. According to several polls, Republican fans are more likely to be upset with players kneeling during the national anthem.
‘I don’t think that surprises anybody,’ Goodell said. ‘We are trying to stay out of politics. We are not looking to get into politics. What we are looking to do is continue to keep people focused on football.
On Tuesday, following a meeting with owners, players, and union representatives, Goodell told reporters that he did not ask that the players stand for the anthem.
‘We did not ask for that,’ he said. ‘We spent today talking about the issues that players have been trying to bring attention to – issues to make our communities better. I think we all agree there’s nothing more important than trying to give back to our communities and make them better. That was the entire focus of today.’
Trump, who’s bid to purchase the NFL’s Buffalo Bills was rejected in 2014, fired back on Twitter: ‘The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!’
Following the October 19 meeting, Goodell emphasized his belief that the players are not being disrespectful of the flag or the United States by protesting peacefully.
Vice President Mike Pence (left) and wife Karen (right) left the Indianapolis Colts game on October 8 after members of the visiting San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the anthem
‘Our players will state to you publicly they are not doing this in any way to be disrespectful to the flag,’ Goodell said.
Later Goodell said the NFL is ‘not looking to get into politics, but what we’re looking to do is to continue to give people a focus on football.’
Goodell repeatedly put the number of protesters at around ‘a half dozen or so,’ which is debatable.
In Week 3, after Trump initially attacked the protesters, over 200 players demonstrated during the national anthem by sitting, kneeling, locking arms with teammates, or raising a fist.
Regardless of the actual number of protesters, Goodell said that the league is ‘going to continue to work to get that to zero.’
To do that, Goodell explained, the league will need to work with the players on a number of initiatives aimed at ‘real differences in our community.’
So far, Goodell has been meeting with players, community leaders, and even co-signed a letter to U.S. senators urging them to vote the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 into law.
Even Jones protested alongside his team in Week 3, first kneeling and then standing while locking arms with players during the anthem.
However, since then, Jones has promised to bench players who protested during the anthem and has received praise from Trump in return.
Embattled former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not receive an invitation to attend the player-owners meeting on October 18, which was aimed at addressing the social issues that have been raised by players’ ongoing protests during the national anthem.
The free agent Kaepernick, who is currently suing all 32 owners for allegedly colluding to blackball him, ignited the protests during the 2016 preseason when he refused to stand during the national anthem as a way to raise awareness about inequality and police violence against minorities.
If the NFL were to institute any policy changes that would force players to stand for the anthem, things could get even more tense between players and owners.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy believes there would be an ‘uproar’ if any such policy was enacted.
‘I don’t think guys are going to like it,’ McCoy told ESPN last week. ‘I think it’s going to be an uproar if that is to happen because you’re basically taking away a constitutional right to freedom of speech. If guys want to have a, I guess you would call it a peaceful protest, I don’t think it’s right to take that away from guys.’