McNair met with the team on Saturday and has publicly apologized twice for his remarks. But a Texans players meeting last night reportedly ended with a decision to stage a major protest during today’s national anthem. The Texans are playing in Seattle with an early afternoon start.
Left tackle Duane Brown told ESPN that “up to 65 to 70 percent” of the team’s players could kneel, but that a suggestion to remove the team’s decals from their helmets will not happen. At one point, players even considered not appearing for the contest, according to reports.
Whatever happens, players on teams in the rest of the league also took notice of McNair’s remarks, with some calling him akin to Donald Sterling, the former Los Angeles Clippers owner who was suspended and forced to sell his team by the NBA after racially charged remarks that were recorded came to light. Some league players are calling for McNair to receive similar treatment, and while that is a longshot, it’s not out of the question if the ill-will lingers.
Given that player protests escalate whenever a major outsider re-ignites the controversy, it’s likely that increased anthem kneeling and other protests will take place around the league this Sunday.
Looking ahead, the NFL will resume its meetings between Commissioner Roger Goodell, team owners, league officials, player representatives and select players from around the league. This week, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been formally invited to participate in at least the first meeting of the week, set for Monday in Philadelphia.
Kaepernick started the anthem protests last year, but became a free agent this season and failed to sign with any other team. His status outside the league has rankled many players and others, who believe he is being deliberately shunned while players of lesser talent are given opportunities.
What happens next for the league is crucial. A wave of bad publicity has hurt television ratings and attendance, and team ownership and league players are largely on separate planets when it comes to goals.
The money-minting days of the NFL are clearly in jeopardy from ownership’s standpoint, and players point to a perceived lack of enthusiasm by the NFL at fostering their passion for increased social awareness and activism against injustices, pointing to breast cancer and other social causes that have received league support.
Kaepernick’s presence at the upcoming meetings may be a true Hail Mary by a league that knows it has already alienated a large portion of its fan base.