SEATTLE — During the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, the majority of Houston Texans players kneeled and linked arms. Approximately 10 players stood.
The display by the Texans players comes after team owner Bob McNair’s controversial “inmates running the prison” comment, which was said during an Oct. 18 meeting in which owners talked about business concerns related to player protests during the national anthem.
“[There were] a lot of emotions running through our team,” left tackle Duane Brown said. “But just a huge sense of unity, I think we all felt, just coming out and playing for each other. And that was it. Forgetting everything else. Once kickoff started, we tried to block out any other distractions we may have had and try and go to work.”
“I’m never going to force anybody to do anything that they don’t feel comfortable with. I think we all felt the same way on Friday. And as far as the demonstration went, some people didn’t feel quite comfortable doing it, some people did. But we all supported each other, and that was what was important. I don’t think anyone looks at anyone differently for what they stood for or didn’t stand for.”
Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and rookie running back D’Onta Foreman missed Friday’s practice as a response to McNair’s controversial comments, which were reported in an ESPN The Magazine story on Friday morning.
Hopkins chose not to answer questions about why he left practice on Friday, but said he came back and played on Sunday because he plays football for a living.
“I don’t get into the political thing,” Hopkins said. “So what I did today on the field, that’s what I do for a living.”
McNair met with the team on Saturday morning, but when asked how the meeting went, Brown said, “Not too well. But like I said, we blocked out all distractions and came out here ready to play.”
McNair issued an apology Friday morning and further clarified his comments in a statement on Saturday, saying, “I was not referring to our players when I made a very regretful comment during the owners meetings last week.”
“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 said in the statement. “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.”
On Friday, Brown spoke out against McNair’s comments, saying he thought it was “disrespectful.” The Texans added Brown to the active roster on Saturday after his season-long holdout, and he took the field for the first time Sunday.
“I think it was ignorant,” Brown said. “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.”
Before the Texans’ Week 3 game in New England in 2016, an injured Brown raised his fist during the national anthem, and expressed displeasure at the lack of support he received from the organization.