Houston Texans owner Bob McNair apologized Friday for a remark he made last week regarding the matter of players not standing during the national anthem before games.
In an ESPN story published Friday, McNair was quoted as telling fellow owners and NFL executives at the Fall League Meeting that "we can't have the inmates running the prison," when discussing the impact the players' actions were having on league business concerns.
"I regret that I used that expression. 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," McNair said in a statement. "I would never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it."
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported McNair met with his team Saturday morning to offer an in-person apology and discussion over his comment. McNair released another statement shortly afterward:
"As I said yesterday, 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.
"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."
Offensive tackle Duane Brown told reporters on Friday that McNair's initial comment was "disrespectful and ignorant" and made Brown "very upset."
Players considered walking out of the team's facility after learning of McNair's comment until meeting with coach Bill O'Brien, GM Rick Smith and assistant head coach Romeo Crennel, a source present told NFL Network's James Palmer. The meeting went 90 minutes and players were free to speak their minds. All decided to stay for practice, minus Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who did not and was excused for personal reasons by O'Brien.
Among those who heard McNair's remark during the Fall League Meeting was Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, a league source told Rapoport. McNair later apologized to Vincent, the source said.
The NFL emerged from its meetings with no mandate to force players to stand for the national anthem. Owners and players reached a consensus to support programs which address and combat social inequality.
NFL owners and players are scheduled to meet again Tuesday to discuss how the two sides can work together to make further progress on social issues.