So, quick recap of what’s becoming the hot new chapter in the saga of the NFL vs. America. The team owners met with players last week to discuss the ongoing protests against the national anthem and what can be done about them, considering their negative impact on the bottom line. Ticket sales are sluggish, TV ratings are dropping like a stone, and the majority of Republican viewers now have a negative view of the NFL brand. It’s clear that, whatever the players had hoped to achieve with their kneeling, they were doing nothing more or less than hurting their own livelihoods.
Okay, so during this meeting, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who was arguing in favor of a league-wide mandate that players stand and be respectful during the national anthem, said “we can’t have the inmates running the prison.” This is a common phrase used to describe any situation where administrators/owners/stakeholders have lost control of their business to employees/students/players/etc. There is nothing racial about the remark. There is nothing in the remark that suggests that many of the players kneeling for the national anthem would otherwise be in prison, even if one might feel that way…
No, this was a completely innocuous remark, totally fitting for the situation.
And naturally, it exploded like a hand grenade.
According to ESPN, NFL executive and former player Troy Vincent took exception to McNair’s remarks. “Vincent said that in all his years playing in the NFL – during which, he said, he had been called every name in the book, including the N-word – he never felt like an ‘inmate.’” McNair reportedly apologized to Vincent and then, when the remark went public, issued not one but two statements apologizing to his players, the viewers, and the NFL as a whole. We’d say that’s more than enough apologizing for a remark that is only offensive if you deliberately go out of your way to take offense. Or, if you’re so dumb that you’ve never heard a very common English idiom like “inmates running the asylum/prison.”
McNair’s players apparently fit into one category or the other. Almost every member of the Houston Texans took a knee for the national anthem on Sunday to protest their owner’s comment. In a drama that seemed as though it had already reached maximum absurdity weeks ago, the Houston Texans managed to actually outdo themselves before going on to lose to the Seahawks.
At this point, we don’t expect that the NFL will actually step in and enforce any sort of national anthem mandate, because the inmates actually ARE running the prison. And if the last few weeks of ratings and ticket sales are any indication, they’re going to run it right into the ground.