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NFL Owners Don’t Want “The Inmates Running The Prison”

About a month ago, after Donald Trump went on his bizarre, un-presidential diatribe about NFL players taking a knee and protesting during the national anthem by calling them sons of bitches, league owners came together to stand arm-in-arm, with some even taking a knee on the sidelines as a show of solidarity. 

The NFL specifically, and football in general, has always unified our communities and families, Texans owner Bob McNair, a Republican, said in a statement released by the team back then. The comments made by the President were divisive and counterproductive to what our country needs right now. I hope the reaction from our players results in positive action for our league, our communities and our country as a whole to make a positive difference in our society. Texans players are caring, intelligent men who do so much good, as was shown in the past month when our city was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. I have never been more proud of our players and our team than during this time. It was a display of what is truly possible when we all work together. We will continue to support our players to work together to promote the values of respect and unity.

But according to recent comments attributed to McNair during recent owner meetings to address the direction that they’d like to see the league heading in, he made it clear that his previous prepared statement was far from how he, and likely most other owners, truly feels.

Mina Kimes on Twitter

woooooooof (read @SethWickersham and @DVNJr on how NFL owners handled players’ protests: https://t.co/P1FBeFGRWc)

At the Conrad Hotel in Manhattan, as the owners talked among themselves the day after meeting with players to hear their concerns, Daniel Snyder, according to a forthcoming ESPN The Magazine piece, Gaffes, TV ratings concerns dominated as NFL, players forged anthem peace, Washington owner Dan Snyder “said that there were real business issues at stake, and he mentioned that in his market, the defense industry and other sponsors were angry about the protests. He didn’t put any dollars on it. To many in the room, Snyder’s speech felt like an opening act for the headlining band.

After Snyder sat down, [Cowboys owner Jerry] Jones stood and left no question that it was his floor. “I’m the ranking owner here,” he said.

At first, some in the room admired Jones’ pure bravado, the mix of folksy politician and visionary salesman he has perfected. But he was angry. He said the owners had to take the business impact seriously, as the league was threatened by a polarizing issue it couldn’t contain or control. To some in the room, it was clear Jones was trying to build momentum for an anthem mandate resolution, and in the words of one owner, “he brought up a lot of fair points.” Jones believed he was one of the few showing any urgency on the matter and seemed to be more frustrated that not everybody was listening than he was passionate about the mandate.

As Jones spoke, Snyder mumbled out loud, “See, Jones gets it — 96 percent of Americans are for guys standing,” a claim some dismissed as a grand overstatement. McNair, a multimillion-dollar Trump campaign contributor, spoke next, echoing many of the same business concerns. “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” McNair said.”

What an interesting choice of words. But it’s also very telling. McNair talked a good game in his team’s released statement last month, but within the comfortable confines of a room full of the league’s billionaire owners, he let his true feeling be known.

In his mind, and in the mind of many of his colleagues, as evidenced by Jones’ earlier statements that he would bench any Cowboy who protested during the national anthem, NFL players aren’t men of character who deserve to be valued and have their concerns taken into consideration. 

They’re simply inmates in the NFL prison. And according to the wardens, they refuse to let those inmates run anything. Police brutality, societal inequity and prison reform be damned. Just in case anyone wondered how some of these owners really feel, we’ve got it from the warden’s own mouth.

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