By Sean Pendergast

by: Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast)

The Duane Brown Era officially ended in Houston last night with the Texans sending their starting left tackle — hey, he did start that one game in Seattle on Sunday! — to, ironically, the Seahawks for CB Jeremy Lane, a 2018 fifth round pick, and a 2019 second round pick. All in all, that’s a pretty good haul for a guy who clearly had no desire to be here, and who had become the face and voice of opposition to ownership over the last several days.

The Texans will miss Duane Brown’s stellar blocking — that skill set now belongs to the Seahawks. With Brown now gone, how the remaining players decide to handle the aftermath of Sunday’s mass kneeling in Seattle during the anthem will be both telling and intriguing. The next game is at home against the Colts and it happens to include a salute to the troops.

Could get awkward with all that kneeling, just saying.

I respect the players’ rights to kneel as much as I respect the rights of the owners to run their businesses within the boundaries of the law. This is a complicated issue, made only more complicated by the fact that I have no idea what the players’ end game is. What exactly are they looking to get out of their demonstrations? The demonstrations reached their fever pitches in Week 3 after Trump’s “son of a bitch” remark and again this past weekend after it was revealed McNair butchered an idiom at a players/owners meeting, saying that he didn’t want the “inmates running the prison.” I’d respect the players more if they came out and said that they’re protesting for better medical coverage, better benefits for retired players, the right to smoke weed medicinally, whatever.

However, best I can tell, they seem to be mad at words — Trump’s words, then McNair’s misapplied words — and don’t really have a plan or a specific goal with all of this.

To me, the worst part about the most recent demonstrations is that they were based on interpreting Bob McNair’s “inmates running the prison” as a literal description. For the record, McNair apologized and clarified that he wasn’t referring to the players as prisoners, but the league office setting policy without owner input, but that doesn’t even matter really. It doesn’t matter whom McNair was referring to as “prisoners” because taking a commonly used analogy literally, even in its butchered form, is absurd.

McNair saying that the “inmates are running the prison” is no more referendum on the human constitution of the players than “paying an arm and a leg” for something is a stated desire to mutilate yourself, or that “raining cats and dogs” is an actual weather report. And it’s certainly not the window into McNair’s soul that some make it out to be, the most irresponsible of whom paint it as a racist idiom.

I have a hard time believing that an owner who has employed a black general manager for 11 years, with multiple turning points that were perfect times to fire him, is a racist. I have a hard time believing an owner with a board of directors and ownership constituency is as diverse as the one the Texans have is a racist. I have a hard time believing that an owner who actually organized a meeting between his players and members of law enforcement after the demonstrations of 2016 has a divisive, racist heart. I have a hard time believing that an owner who, along with his wife, have made the Hope Lodge, a place where families of cancer patients presumably of MANY races and ethnicities can stay free of charge here in Houston, a focal project of their charitable efforts is a racist person.

There is no question that NFL owners have issues in how they’ve handled relations with players for years. Some of that is due to the players’ union being the weakest of the big sports, but some of it is also due to the owners’ own misgivings. The way the owners have handled player safety and head trauma is nothing short of appalling and, in many ways, duplicitous. There is absolutely a meat market mentality that pervades the NFL, where management all the way up the line — coaches, GM’s, owners — are complicit to varying degrees. That must be fixed, and if the players last Sunday were protesting THAT, then good! Let’s get you guys to the table and figure things out.

None of that ever came up, though. Not that I heard, at least. Just lots of anger over the misuse of the words “inmate” and “prison.” And a segment of the angry people calling Bob McNair “racist.” No solutions, no plan, just lots of anger.

Indeed, Sunday should be very interesting.

  1. Good article, Sean. I’m still confused as to how Duane Brown could claim to have been “thrown to the wolves” after protesting by raising a fist last year in light of the fact that, as you mentioned, McNair orchestrated a meeting between Texans players, the Mayor, police and other civic leaders to develop a strategy to address the situation. Brown said the meeting was productive (according to John McClain’s article in the Chronicle Oct. 2016), yet I’ve not heard anything in the last year of his efforts to establish a dialogue in the community with police and black citizens. Maybe I missed something…..

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