Texans owner says he regrets apologizing for controversial ‘inmates running the prison’ comment over protests during national anthem

  • Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said he regrets apologizing for controversial comments regarding player protests during the national anthem.
  • McNair faced backlash after he said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison” over handling the protests.
  • McNair said he was not referring to players and did not need to apologize.
  • McNair doubled down, saying the NFL needs to stay out of politics.

Nearly seven months after causing a firestorm in the NFL over a controversial comment about protests during the national anthem, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair says he now regrets apologizing for the comments.

In October, in the midst of heated debates in the NFL about how to handle player protests during the national anthem, ESPN reported that McNair in a meeting said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.”

The comments sparked an immediate backlash, with some Texans players threatening to walk out of practice and later kneeling during the anthem in their next game. McNair apologized twice for the comments, saying reports took them out of context and that he wasn’t referring to the players.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Beaton reported that McNair said he now regrets apologizing for the comments.

“The main thing I regret is apologizing,” McNair said, adding: “I really didn’t have anything to apologize for.”

According to Beaton, McNair said he was not referring to players as “inmates” but rather some league executives who had more control than the owners in big decisions.

“We were talking about a number of things, but we were also washing some of our dirty linen, which you do internally,” McNair told Beaton. “You don’t do that publicly. That’s what I was addressing: The relationship of owners and the league office. In business, it’s a common expression. But the general public doesn’t understand it, perhaps.”

McNair was recently deposed as part of Colin Kaepernick’s collusion grievance against the NFL, according to Beaton. McNair told Beaton that in the previous offseason, the Texans looked at signing Kaepernick but coaches were against it because of his throwing mechanics.

However, The Houston Chronicle previously reported that NFL agents said the Texans were not interested in signing players who knelt during the national anthem.

McNair said that if players are forced to be on the field for the anthem, they should stand.

“If they’re going to be out there, we need to respect the anthem and our flag. If folks don’t want to do that, well, stay in the locker room.” Players previously stayed in the locker room during the national anthem.

“We need to stay out of politics,” McNair said of the NFL. “That’s been my message.”