Houston Texans comment on Sunday's 'inmate' protests

The Houston Texans face a new wrinkle in the ongoing protest story facing the NFL: an owner who has, by some interpretations, slagged them as “inmates.” How do you respond to that?

Texans owner Bob McNair made nationwide news late this week when an ESPN report revealed he offered the highly unfortunate phrase, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison” in an owners’ discussion about players’ concerns. McNair apologized on at least two occasions, but that wasn’t enough for the Texans, who decided to stage some form of protest as a team.

Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks offered the first opportunity for that protest, and all but about 10 of the players on the team knelt during the anthem.

If the protests distracted the Texans, more teams could use this kind of distraction; Houston and Seattle played arguably the season’s best game on Sunday, a stellar exhibition of offense and QB play. After the game, though, talk returned to the protest.

“It was a lot of emotions going in for our team, just a huge sense of unity,” Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown said. “We all felt like playing for each other, forgetting everything else. Once kickoff was started, we tried to block out any more distractions we had.”

Running back D’Onta Foreman elaborated on his mindset after hearing the comments. “I was upset. I feel like my family that’s been supporting the Texans since they started the franchise and me growing up watching this franchise, a comment like that is definitely going to hit home with me,” he said. “I have a daughter. Even though she’s young, that’s something you got to stand on morals and principles. I was brought up like that. You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything. I want to be here. I love my teammates.”

Texans coach Bill O’Brien had no trouble supporting his players:

But rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson sidestepped a question on the protests:

The question that now faces the Texans is, what’s next? What does the team do to continue to show its displeasure, and what could McNair possibly say to repair the damage? Those are matters for the future, but for now, Brown said, the team is united, regardless of whether the players stood or knelt.

“I’m never going to force anybody to do anything they don’t feel comfortable with,” Brown said. “I think we all felt the same way on Friday. As far as the demonstration, some people didn’t feel quite comfortable with it. Some people did, but we all supported each other. I don’t think anybody looks at anyone differently for what they stood for or didn’t stand for.”

Houston Texans take a knee. (Getty)

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Got a comment, tip, or question for a future NFL mailbag? Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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