Houston Texans owner Bob McNair made an extremely stupid, offensive remark at the league’s owner’s meetings a week ago, and players around the league are incensed, including San Francisco 49ers linebacker Eric Reid.
Reid, when asked about McNair’s comparison of NFL players to prison inmates, wasn’t surprised that such an inflammatory, narrow-minded statement was coming from an NFL owner.
“Couldn’t have picked a poorer choice of words, referring to us as prisoners,” Reid said, according to Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News. “Welcome to America 2017.”
Reid went on to say that he wants to believe that McNair didn’t mean it the way it came off, “but that’s the norm in our society,” also via Inman.
McNair’s statement is wrong for so many reasons. At best he’s made a serious lapse of personal judgment and said something that sounds a lot worse than his actual feelings and at worst he’s a closet bigot who accidentally kicked open the door.
“We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” McNair reportedly said in reference to peaceful demonstrations over the killing of innocent people of color, systemic racism and social injustice in the United States.
McNair did issue an apology in which he says he regrets he used “that expression,” despite that not being the popular iteration of that expression (not that the asylum analogy is any better, mind you). He went on to say that he “never meant to offend anyone and I was not referring to our players,” despite the literal fact that he was referring to NFL players.
49ers linebacker Eli Harold also had some thoughts on McNair’s comments.
“To see how he views the guys that continue to keep him rich is just insane to me,” Harold said, via Chris Biderman of NinersWire. “I’m not giving him the benefit of the doubt because he’s showing his true colors.”
Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins skipped practice as a result of McNair’s statement and the team considered a full-on walkout, according to Sarah Barshop of ESPN.
Reid, of course, is notable for being one of the first to join then-teammate Colin Kaepernick in peacefully protesting racism in the United States by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before football games.
Reid — and players around the NFL involved in the movement — have said multiple times that the protests have nothing to do with the anthem itself, the military, or anything of that nature, but the tone-deaf owners continue to make it clear that they’re not listening. Not yet.
I expect this isn’t the end of this conversation, and it shouldn’t be. McNair’s comment, combined with the outright rejection of the right to protest by Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys on multiple occasions, is a sign that things have a long, long way to go before they’re where they need to be.