Some Houston Texans players considered staging a walkout following a comment by team owner Bob McNair that compared NFL players to “inmates,” a source told ESPN’s Sarah Barshop.
About 10 players, including wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, left the facility Friday, the source said. Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Hopkins’ absence from practice Friday was directly related to McNair’s comment.
Most of the players who left returned to the facility, the source said, and the remaining players were talked out of their protest by the coaching staff.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien said Hopkins had taken a “personal day” to explain his absence from practice.
McNair issued a public apology Friday following an ESPN The Magazine report that McNair said “We can’t have the inmates running the prison” during last week’s owners meeting in reference to ongoing player demonstrations during the national anthem.
“I regret that I used that expression,” McNair said in a statement. “I never meant to offend anyone and I was not referring to our players. I used a figure of speech that was never intended to be taken literally. I would never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”
McNair made the “inmates” statement after other owners in the Oct. 18 meeting talked of business concerns surrounding the anthem protests, a day after several owners and players had met to discuss social reform.
After the owners finished talking, NFL executive Troy Vincent said he was offended by McNair’s characterization of the players as “inmates.” Vincent said that in all his years of 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 later pulled Vincent aside and apologized, saying that he felt horrible and that his words weren’t meant to be taken literally, which Vincent appreciated.