The Houston Texans have a plan for signing free agents this offseason. And part of the NFL team’s evaluations reportedly will include passing on any players who have a history of kneeling in protest during the playing of the national anthem.
The Houston Chronicle reported that two NFL agents said the Texans, owned by University of South Carolina alum Bob McNair, aren’t interested in any players who participated in pregame kneel-downs in protest of police brutality.
“There is no directive within the organization, but it is considered to be understood that as desperate as the Texans are to bring in talent, the pool of potential signees and draftees will not include anyone who has participated in protests or are likely to,” columnist Jerome Solomon wrote in the Houston Chronicle.
The Texans later released a statement calling the report “categorically false and without merit.”
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If true, this wouldn’t be the first incident related to the protest issue for the Texans or McNair.
Last season, McNair said “we can’t have the inmates running the prison” during a meeting of NFL owners about players who protest by kneeling during the national anthem.
After his comments were made public, creating an uproar among NFL players and the public, the 1958 USC grad issued two apologies and met with Texans players.
He said that if he had a chance to do it over, he would not have used the expression.
“I was not referring to our players when I made a very regretful comment during the owners meetings last week,” McNair said. “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.”
One former Texans player said that wasn’t the first time McNair said something that could be interpreted as tone deaf or even divisive. Former Houston offensive lineman Duane Brown said McNair has a questionable history of racially insensitive comments.
“I think it was ignorant. I think it was embarrassing. I think it angered a lot of players, including myself,” Brown said in October.
Brown, who was the only Texans player to protest during the playing of the national anthem when they were less frequent in the 2016 season, was traded shortly after making his critical comments about McNair in the middle of the 2017 season.
There was some fallout following McNair’s “inmates” comment. Texans Pro Bowl receiver and former Clemson Tiger DeAndre Hopkins walked out of the team’s practice facility and skipped a training session in protest.
McNair was also one of several NFL team owners to be deposed and asked to turn over all cellphone records and emails in relation to the Colin Kaepernick collusion case against the NFL. The owners were selected based on their public statements about either Kaepernick or sideline protests during the national anthem.
Additionally, on Oct. 31, it was revealed fellow Gamecock alum and Texans star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney wore an orange jumpsuit that looked like a prison uniform to a Halloween party. It was perceived by some as a critique of McNair’s comments.
Clowney, coming off the best season of his NFL career, is looking for a contract extension before entering the final season of his rookie pact. Could his actions cause the Texans to let one of their best players go?
McNair is an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, who is a fierce critic of players kneeling during the anthem. In 2016, McNair donated $4.5 million to Trump and out of all of the NFL owners McNair was the biggest donor to Trump, according to texasmonthly.com.
In addition to Clowney and Hopkins, several prominent Clemson and South Carolina alums are on the Texans’ roster.
Former Gamecocks include Jonathan Joseph and Bruce Ellington. Houston’s offense is led by former Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson, while Andre Ellington, D.J. Reader, Carlos Watkins and Marcus Gilchrist are also on the Texans.
In spite of the current controversy, McNair has remained a supporter of South Carolina academics and athletics. In January, McNair made a $5 million commitment to the construction of the new football operations center. Prior to that gift, McNair had given $28 million to the academic side of the university.
Just last month, McNair met with some current members of his alma mater’s football team. Gamecocks seniors Bryson Allen-Williams and Deebo Samuel were joined by juniors Jake Bentley, TJ Brunson, and Bryan Edwards.
“Janice and I have been privileged to support great initiatives in higher education and athletics,” McNair said in January. “We are again honored to join with other Gamecock supporters in supporting the new football operations center at the University of South Carolina. We hope all fellow Gamecocks will join us in taking part in this extraordinary project.”
McNair earned a psychology degree from USC in 1958. Following his days at South Carolina, he founded Cogen Technologies, one of the largest privately held energy companies in the world. He sold Cogen before founding the Texans in 1999, and maintains ownership of a private investment company.