Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis said Friday he is deeply troubled by Houston Texans owner Bob McNair’s offensive remarks regarding NFL players’ constitutionally protected right to protest.
McNair, according to numerous published reports, said at the NFL owners meetings last week that players’ protests during the national anthem were having an effect on NFL business and that, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
McNair’s critical comments about NFL players exercising their First Amendment right to free speech comes at a time when the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. is considering whether to accept a privately donated statue of McNair for placement on public land at NRG Park.
“NFL players are protesting inequality in our country. When their employer responds by calling them inmates in a prison, he not only shows why the protests are needed, he shows that he hasn’t even thought about the meaning behind their protest,” Commissioner Ellis said.
“It doesn’t matter if Bob McNair meant to offend anybody or not, it matters that he chose those words to describe his employees and didn’t think about why it would be a problem. Going forward, I would encourage him to think a little less about the business impact of President Trump’s Twitter insults and more about the inequalities that his own players are protesting. I’d also encourage the Harris County Sports and Convention Board to develop a uniform policy on who gets to be honored with a statue on public land, especially in light of these recent developments.”
The sports corporation board of directors recently voted to conduct a feasibility study for erecting the statue in honor of McNair.
Commissioner Ellis voiced concern about the statue plan before the vote was taken, saying Harris County needs to develop an overall policy regarding the placement of statues on public land before any formal decision is made about the McNair statue.
Commissioner Ellis also said a public facility should have open, transparent discussions before placing statues on taxpayer-owned land.