Houston Texans owner Bob McNair is under fire for disparaging comments he made at a closed-door meeting about allowing players to kneel during the national anthem.
The meeting was between McNair and other NFL team owners and executives, and McNair, 80, referred to players as being prisoners.
“We can’t have inmates running the prison,” McNair said, according to an ESPN report of the conference call.
The comments were met with scrutiny by many players and other league executives. Former player Troy Vincent, who was at the meeting, took offense to the comment and got into a back-and-forth argument with McNair and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the report said.
The meeting report also said that Jones, McNair and some other owners were upset with San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York for allowing quarterback Colin Kapernick to kneel last year.
The kneeling “crisis,” as some owners refer to it as, was spurred by controversial remarks by President Donald Trump last month. McNair — and other owners — were significant donors to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Here’s what you need to know about McNair and Trump:
1. The Texans Almost Walked out of Practice Because of McNair’s Comments
After his comments were published in the ESPN report, McNair and the Texans issued an official apology.
“I regret that I used that expression,” the statement said. “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.”
Despite the apology, players across the league weren’t satisfied. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman let his voice be heard on Twitter, saying “you meant what you said. Showing true colors allows (people) to see you for who you are.”
Hours after McNair’s comments were made public, his Texans team threatened to “walk out” of practice in frustration. Instead, they had to be “persuaded” to stay, ESPN reported.
ESPN’s Sarah Barshop reported that wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins skipped practice after taking a “personal day,” which was later reported as being due to McNair’s comments.
After practice, Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he told the team McNair’s comments at a morning team meeting so they wouldn’t be blindsided. He added that he stands by his players 100 percent.
2. McNair Donated Millions of Dollars to Trump
According to the Houston Chronicle, McNair donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. The disclosure was part of a 510-page report released in April by the Federal Election Commission. The filings also showed that Jones contributed $1 million to the same committee, and other owners followed suit.
The report said that the committee raised $106.7 million to pay for Trump’s inauguration events. In return, donors would get “access to Trump, luxury accommodations and invitations to exclusive events.” The amount raised was far more than the record $53 million for former President Barack Obama‘s 2009 inauguration.
McNair described his political leanings to USA Today in 2004, saying that he supports many politicians whose opinions happen to be conservative.
“I support candidates that support the free-enterprise system and believe in free trade,” McNair told the newspaper. “Most of the people who support those policies are people in the Republican Party.”
Campaign contribution disclosures state that McNair is the NFL owner who contributes the most money toward political campaigns.
“McNair is clearly the biggest power donor in the NFL,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics Spokesman Jordan Libowitz said to the Texas Tribune. “He cuts seven figure checks.”
While he’s donated to may political campaigns in the past, McNair was one of the first people to pledge $1 million to defensive end J.J. Watt‘s funding campaign to raise money for the recovery effort in Houston following Hurricane Harvey.
3. McNair Was Critical of Trump for His Criticism of Players Who Kneel
In September, Trump ignited a war of words with the NFL, calling players who don’t stand for the national anthem a “son of a b-tch” and encouraging owners to “fire or suspend” players who kneel.
Two days after his speech, the president once again called for NFL owners to fire or suspend players those players.
However, multiple owners defended their players’ right to protest, and the hashtag #takeaknee trended on Twitter.
In response to Trump’s words, Texans players and coaches stood with their arms locked during the national anthem. Hours before they took the field, McNair released a statement condeming Trump’s beliefs on the matter.
“The NFL specifically, and football in general, has always unified our communities and families,” the statement said. “The comments made by the president were divisive and counterproductive to what our country needs right now.”
4. McNair Has a Net Worth of Around $3.5 Billion
According to Forbes, McNair has a current net worth of $3.8 billion. Before owning the Texans, McNair made his money through his company, Cogen Power Technologies, a power generator company. In 1999, McNair sold the company to Enron for a reported $1.5 billion and used the proceeds from the sale to secure the Texans as an NFL expansion franchise.
Part of his company’s sale, according to Forbes, meant that he retained ownership at several power plants based in New York and West Virginia.
Forbes has him ranked as No. 186 on the Forbes 400 list and the No. 201 billionaire in the United States.
5. McNair Has Donated Over $6 Million to Other Republican Candidates
McNair is a known conservative and has also donated to other GOP candidates in the past. He donated $500,000 to four republican candidates prior to Trump receiving the nomination, Texas Monthly reported. They were: Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush. In addition, he also gave money toward the Senate campaigns of several Republicans.
“All told, that’s $6 million to GOP candidates across the country since the beginning of last year, and add in another $450,000 to the Greg Abbott campaign,” John Nova Lomax of Texas Monthly wrote.
Between 2009 and 2011, McNair donated over $200,000 to Republican candidates and none for Democrats. During the 2004 election cycle, McNair directly contributed toward the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign, which released several ads portraying Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry as a coward.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), was extremely critical of the advertisement, saying he “deplored those kinds of politics.”
“I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable,” McCain said in a statement at the time. “As it is, none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded. Many of his crew have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam. I think George Bush served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.”