Bob McNair apologizes for “inmates” remark

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An excellent ESPN.com summary of the things that transpired at last week’s NFL ownership meetings included a report that Texans owner Bob McNair had said during a session involving mostly owners that “[w]e can’t have the inmates running the prison.” Now that the comment been made public, more than a week after the words were uttered, McNair has issued a public apology.

I regret that I used that expression,” McNair said. “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’s apology seems genuine and reasonable. The phrase (more commonly formulated as “inmates running the asylum”) refers to those who are being governed trying to become those who govern.

And so for the same reason that the “son of a bitch” remark from President Trump shouldn’t have been interpreted literally as an insult against the mothers of NFL players, McNair’s comment shouldn’t be regarded literally as an insult against the players. Like the comment from President Trump, however, the players should be offended by the underlying message.

The underlying message is this: We run this operation. You don’t. You are the hired help. We are the NFL. We, not you, will run the NFL. We, not you, will occupy the real seats at the table. We, not you, own the teams. We, not you, will be around long after your careers are over and done. We, not you, made the NFL what it currently is. And we, not you, will solve this and every other problem that the league will face, now or in the future.

Players, who currently get a fairly equal share of the revenue but none of the equity, should be far more upset about that you-work-for-us attitude than about the specific words McNair chose to convey it.

Not that any of these realities will ever change. But the players need to keep the broader dynamics in mind when assessing efforts by ownership to persuade players to stand for the anthem while getting comparatively little in return. The players, by reserving the right to not stand for the anthem, have put the owners in a position that they rarely occupy — a position of weakness that, if the players choose to hold firm, can be escaped only by making real concessions that will get them to agree to stand as part of the labor deal.

Sure, the league claims that it currently has the right to mandate standing without collective bargaining. But the league is smart enough not to issue that directive unilaterally. Though the leagues hope it can get players to say, “Screw it, we’ll stand,” the owners know that, if push ever comes to shove on this issue, it will be the owners who find themselves in the rare spot of being pushed and shoved around.

And the end result could be something they won’t want to stick in their trophy case.

92 responses to “Bob McNair apologizes for “inmates” remark

  1. Can we please please please stop all the politically correct craziness. This analogy is common and utterly harmless. We all have to stop seizing every opportunity to be righteously insulted. It’s fake … and everyone knows it.

  2. Why does he have to apologize? Has everyone really become that hypocritical?
    How many times have you heard that phrase before with no issue whatsoever?

    I’ve heard it plenty in the context of sports, and the NFL specifically. Yet now there’s something wrong with it.

  3. this is the same
    jealous, power hungry moron who believed goodell and claimed
    brady “destroyed” his phone.

    gee; i wonder why ratings are plummeting?

    owner greed, cheating and outright disrespect of the nfl customer

  4. Is this guy serious? He should apologize for saying that players are employees and do not have a seat at the table? So all employees should have a say about the direction of the company? I’ll make sure to ask our janitor what business we should buy next.

  5. “The underlying message is this: We run this operation.”

    The underlying message the owners will take out of it is what happened in a closed door meeting became public. As for the actual use of the phrase and the apology welcome to the USA in 2017 where we have reached the point where just about everyone is now offended on a deep personal level by almost everything and we should all walk around apologizing for everything. Maybe everyone should just carry signs saying “I’m sorry if anything I have said or done has offended you.” Although personally mine would read “I’m sorry if I hurt your overly sensitive little girl like feelings.”

  6. It speaks volumes about the people he has to deal with that someone thought his comments were offensive.

    I find their reaction offensive.

  7. The owners DO run the league. The players ARE the employees. When you spend almost a billion dollars to buy a team you should expect to run the team. Just because they split the revenue down not make the players equal to the owners.

  8. The comments were unsmart and poor choice of words…..but the bottom line is this.
    They DO work for him, and he DOES own the team.
    And the analogy is on point.
    If the players don’t like it, they can quit. My guess is not one of them willing to do that.

  9. The players who continue to kneel are supporting Colin the Conman. They will be kneeling for the rest of their careers because Colin will never play in the NFL again.

  10. Michael Fergus says:
    October 27, 2017 at 1:28 pm
    He didn’t have to apologize. It is a commonly used phrase. I cannot believe how overly sensitive and desperate for conflict our society has become.
    ——

    Yes, it’s commonly used phrase that means you can’t let the underlings be in charge. The league is constantly telling us that the players are “partners”. Using this phrase would seem to contradict that.

    Can you follow all of that?

  11. I often find the apologies far more offensive than whatever was said in the first place. People need to stand by what they first say because thats usually true to how they feel. Despite the fact that political correctness is helping to decay the moral compass of this country I still believe most people prefer honesty to pandering. Stop apologizing.

  12. “Players, who currently get a fairly equal share of the revenue but none of the equity, should be far more upset about that you-work-for-us attitude than about the specific words McNair chose to convey it.”

    Oh Please! They do work for the owners. This is not a partnership – it is an employer/employee relationship. I’d love to see them padlock the doors and disband the player’s union. Start all over again with players who are treated as independent contractors.

  13. Anyway you want to slice it or dice it, this was a dumb comment and McNair is just another lunatic owner who considers players to be nothing more than chattel or slaves on the plantation. McNair opened his big mouth and inserted his foot.

  14. The owners care about players as much as any company cares about it’s employees… not at all. The message of ‘caring’ is all window dressing. An employee is valued if they can make the company money and the minute they can’t make the company money any more then they’ll flush you down the toilet in a NY minute. This isn’t an NFL issue, this is a life/business reality. Wake up.

  15. “Players, who currently get a fairly equal share of the revenue but none of the equity, should be far more upset about that you-work-for-us attitude than about the specific words McNair chose to convey it.”

    That is called reality. Why are you giving the players advice to be upset about the fact that they have employers? And are you really suggesting they should get more than the millions of dollars they are paid to play a game? I am confused by your tactics.

  16. No need to apologize, it’s already clear how the Texas contingent of owners feel. Keep those uppity boys down and in their place.

  17. The employees at my company better never start thinking they’re as important as the equity holders. Cause they’ll be gone very quickly. The NFL should never let the inmates run the prison either. If they were smart enough to do that, they’d have the money to buy their own NFL Franchise.

  18. When did the NFL become so contemptible? From the greedy, backstabbing owners to the whiny, entitled players, I say let the whole thing burn.

  19. kemp13 says:
    October 27, 2017 at 1:58 pm
    “I was not referring to our players.”

    Please, dude. That’s EXACTLY to whom you were referring.

    1 0 Rate This

    ——-

    but jj watt would “never destroy his phone”…how bob mcnair made millions, i have no idea..dumber than dirt

  20. “McNair is just another lunatic owner who considers players to be nothing more than chattel or slaves on the plantation. McNair opened his big mouth and inserted his foot.”

    Sure wish I could be a slave on a plantation playing a game I love to play and getting paid a ransom to do it, instead of coming in to work for a small fraction of that 5-6 days a week for 40 years. Some of you are going WAY out of your way to be offended.

  21. lukedunphysscienceproject says:
    October 27, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Yes, it’s commonly used phrase that means you can’t let the underlings be in charge. The league is constantly telling us that the players are “partners”. Using this phrase would seem to contradict that.

    Can you follow all of that?
    _______________________________________________________

    Except the comments were made in a closed door meeting between owners and execs. Haven’t you ever used a phrase that sums up your position in a nutshell with your particular audience in mind?

    Can you follow all that?

  22. So, I guess none of u posters will get offended or owners should get offended if when players say that they conduct themselves as slave masters.. You guys kill me with the players should just shut up, an analogy is a direct comparison… He blatantly compared players to inmates and u all makin excuses for him….

  23. “The underlying message is this: We run this operation. You don’t. You are the hired help. We are the NFL. We, not you, will run the NFL. We, not you, will occupy the real seats at the table. We, not you, own the teams. We, not you, will be around long after your careers are over and done. We, not you, made the NFL what it currently is. And we, not you, will solve this and every other problem that the league will face, now or in the future”

    But this is all true. The owners, as any business owner does, took the capital, political, and personal RISKS to start or purchase a business. The players have not taken financial risk. They are paid and can purchase insurance for future injury but they are not taking ANY financial risks.
    what is your point?

  24. Well, I have more often heard “You can’t let the inmates run the asylum”, but if McNair had said that, it would have still offended someone.

    I’m sorry, but anyone offended by his comments has too much time on their hands. Get a life.

  25. Players, who currently get a fairly equal share of the revenue but none of the equity, should be far more upset about that you-work-for-us attitude
    ======================================================

    It’s a reality. The players work for their employee.

  26. I watch football games because I love the game of football. Football games are played by football players, not the football owners. You don’t go to a football game to watch fat old men sitting in chairs – or do you?

    All you folks that side with the owners over football players in my opinion aren’t really even football fans – it’s not the GAME you like. It’s “owning” that you like. Yet for every complaint you have about the millionaire players, the billionaire owners are 1000 times worse, and that’s just math. The owners are 1000 times more greedy, arrogant, selfish, etc.

    Without the owners there can still be games but without football PLAYERS there are no football games to be played. If you don’t like football players then I don’t think you like football, period. You are just a fan of owning things. You know the owners don’t really “own” the players right? Maybe you don’t.

  27. “The underlying message is this: We run this operation. You don’t. You are the hired help. We are the NFL. We, not you, will run the NFL. We, not you, will occupy the real seats at the table. We, not you, own the teams. We, not you, will be around long after your careers are over and done. We, not you, made the NFL what it currently is. And we, not you, will solve this and every other problem that the league will face, now or in the future.”

    As much as I loathe the owners and league office, and virtually all large corporations, what about any of these statements is offensive? This is the reality of working for any large corporation. The players may be highly paid workers, but they are still workers / employees. They are not the ones writing the checks to pay themselves, the owners are.

    If the players are so sensitive about being the entitled employees they are that they can’t stand being reminded they are employees, I suggest they try actually working for a living and seeing how life is for 95-99% of the people on the planet.

  28. “So, I guess none of u posters will get offended or owners should get offended if when players say that they conduct themselves as slave masters.”

    Two totally different idioms. Inmates running the asylum / prison indicates employees being out of control.

    Slave masters = you know, people who keep actual slaves, not employers who pay their employees hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year.

  29. For the athletes calling him racist, that is just a sign of their own insecurity. It’s such a common phrase, that it’s easy to assume he didn’t mean any racism when he said it. So by taking issue with it, it’s like they’re stereotyping themselves.

  30. the man who wore pig socks is the player’s hero in this scenario..think about that for a second…

  31. it ia not the idea that what he said is “offensive” as a pure figure
    of speech, it is that he is dumb enough to be so mouthy
    with regards to a touchy subject.

    translation? mcnair needs to shut his mouth. he is not the power player he thinks he is.

  32. McNair is just scared to face the PC police for another non-transgression.

    Inmates running the asylum/prison is an entirely appropriate analogy to the players actions.

    No apology is necessary, and doing so will just make the incorrigible feel they have more power.

    Thus McNair just made the NFL owners job harder for no reason other then he apologized.

  33. You’re mistaken that the anthem issue will get the players anything they want in the CBA. There’s too much they’re asking for. They want weed suspensions removed. They want Goodell’s power lessened. They want even less practices, less off-season requirements, and less preseason games. It’s the players that are going to have to give, not the owners.

  34. Too many chiefs not enough Indians is another community not used phrase and not intended to ridicule anyone. No need for an apology this is ridiculous

  35. I get paid to work for the company I work for (and a lot less than NFL players). They don’t give me equity. Guess I should be upset. Maybe the players should buy stock instead of spending on drugs and lawyer fees

  36. Good grief! What’s next? is the phrase “too many chiefs and not enough indians” going to be banned for being insenstive too??????????????

  37. Michael Fergus says:

    October 27, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    He didn’t have to apologize. It is a commonly used phrase. I cannot believe how overly sensitive and desperate for conflict our society has become.
    ________________________________________________

    As the article stated the phrase is actually “inmates running the asylum” so no, it’s not commonly used.

    I guess I can only express a similar opinion to what Mr. McNair said during the “deflategate” imbroglio: “I can’t picture Robert Kraft doing something like this”

  38. “Players, who currently get a fairly equal share of the revenue but none of the equity, should be far more upset about that you-work-for-us attitude than about the specific words McNair chose to convey it.”

    This is nonsense. The players are employees, not owners so they have no “right” to an equal share of the equity.

    Honestly this sums up a major issue in our country, people think they are entitled to things which they have no right to feel entitled to. Players want equity? Buy-in. By the authors logic everyone who isn’t self employed should be upset

  39. Without the owners there can still be games but without football PLAYERS there are no football games to be played

    There are thousands of men waiting to take the place on any one player. I wish there were a way to flush these entitlement-minded snowflakes out of the game right now.

  40. I am usually one of Florio’s biggest critics, but I thought this was a well written piece.
    Thanks Mike.

  41. “The underlying message is this: We run this operation. You don’t. You are the hired help. We are the NFL. We, not you, will run the NFL. We, not you, will occupy the real seats at the table. We, not you, own the teams. We, not you, will be around long after your careers are over and done. We, not you, made the NFL what it currently is. And we, not you, will solve this and every other problem that the league will face, now or in the future.”
    ———————————————–

    Yeah, but all of those things are accurate. Sorry, but the players are indeed employees of the NFL. The players have VERY short-term goals for the NFL because the average player is active in this league for a few years or less. For decades after a player retires, often the same owners are in place holding the bag as always.

    The players need to be treated fairly (see Tom Brady and Zeke Elliott and my agreement that they have been boned by the league) but there is no rationality behind the idea that the players have or should have any role in governing the NFL.

  42. the fact that a metaphor has to be explained shows you the kind of intelligence, or lack there of, we are up against..there is no reasoning with people who don’t even understand what they are fighting for or basic english

  43. LMAO at all these people complaining others are too easily offended when they are the ones boycotting the NFL and whining on every web site because someone knelt during the anthem.

  44. relder22 says:

    October 27, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    Is this guy serious? He should apologize for saying that players are employees and do not have a seat at the table? So all employees should have a say about the direction of the company? I’ll make sure to ask our janitor what business we should buy next.
    ================================================================================
    Your analogy is light years off base. In MOST companies, the owners can still make their product with OTHER employees. THAT is not the situation as the PLAYERS ARE the product. Without them THERE is no NFL, no league.

  45. so many people wake up every day looking for something to be offended by…and I doubt they are ever disappointed

  46. Liberals should provide us with a list of analogies that are non-threatening to snowflakes. This way we won’t unintentionally hurt anyone’s feelings.

  47. I remember when Adrian Peterson called the NFL Labor ‘modern day slavery’ and he got torn a new one….it wasn’t meant literally either. Where were all you ‘get rid of political correctness’ warriors then ? Hypocrites !

  48. considering some people believe owners think that this is a prison/ward or master/slave environment in the nfl, mcnair needed to be smarter in his metaphors. if cam newton can be pleasantly surprised by a woman asking a more indepth football question than her male counterparts, yet be treated like he shot jfk, then surely, mr. mcnair can be subject to the same.

  49. wow i am seeing a lot of whining about “political correctness,” which is essentially a slur for “civility.” but the snowflakes come out in full force, all butthurt in the feels, when someone kneels for the anthem.

  50. I am not offended by the statement. It is pejorative however. I could see how some could be offended. I would have no issue in the least if this statement is not used. I have a harder time understanding why some folks want to defend a statement that doesn’t bother them but bothers others.

  51. You know times are tough in the good old U S of A when a commonly used phrase like “Can’t let the Inmates run the Asylum/Prison” hurts the feelings of big/strong/masculine football players and DeAndre Hopkins.

  52. If I was an owner, I would allow them to continue to kneel, raise their fists, sit in the tunnel, etc. I, as a fan do not take it out on the owners that the players are disrespectful. I have a real disregard and problem with the players as they continue to show their disrespect.

    The owners should just let them continue, but start a PR campaign that shows they are doing what they can, but they are the OWNERS and they can indeed stop the “inmates from running the prison”. The players sending that letter to the NFL was a joke to me. Demanding that Colin Kaepernick get a job from someone/anyone is even a bigger joke and completely misses the point. I am sure there are a handful of players that do give back to the communities and fight for the racial injustices they see, but I am guessing the ones with the biggest mouths, like Michael Bennett, are doing little to help their cause, beside being in the spotlight.

    As a Fan, all I see are a bunch of overpaid people who just happen to have a talent or size that most of don’t, but that to me doesn’t make them superior or anything but another human.

    As a Parent, I discourage my kids to look at athletes as role models, we instead look to our local heroes such as those that have dedicated a part of their lives to military service. I teach my children to look up to their teachers, counselors, principals,and even our local politicians. We stand for the soldiers and vets as they pass by in the parades. We stand for the national anthem, with hats off and hearts crossed.

    I stand behind the owners and understand that the players are just employees and nothing more. For anyone to assume that they are more than that, they are delusional. As an employee, I would never demand anything from my employer as long as they are providing a safe working environment and a suitable wage. Mr. Vincent, come work with me. We offer competitive wages and a safe working environment, you would love it!

    The Players need to get off their high horses, play the game for which they all are rewarded handsomely, and shut up for the few hours a week that they are on the national stage. Use your free time to give back and help the communities that you feel are affected. Get educated about what is perceived as racial injustice and then do something about it. Beg the NFL for a couple hours of airtime programming on their own network. Show the rest of us what you are doing to help right the perceived wrongs. I would watch that. I think that would be excellent programming. It would be a far better use of your time that “pimping someones ride”, though I did watch one where they hooked up a Vet. I bet the owners would be willing to do it. I bet they would love to show that you are doing something besides standing at a microphone complaining.

    Let’s get this done and quit worrying about being offended for a phrase that has been in use for a very long time.

    Rant over..

  53. Well… the owners DO run the league, and the players ARE the “hired help,” but otherwise… SJW on!

  54. wetdentist says:
    October 27, 2017 at 3:11 pm
    wow i am seeing a lot of whining about “political correctness,” which is essentially a slur for “civility.” but the snowflakes come out in full force, all butthurt in the feels, when someone kneels for the anthem.

    —-

    This ^^^

  55. LOL! McNair was the thin-skinned ‘politically correct’ snowflake that was offended first, and used the poor analogy.

    ——————————
    redlikethepig says:
    October 27, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Can we please please please stop all the politically correct craziness. This analogy is common and utterly harmless. We all have to stop seizing every opportunity to be righteously insulted. It’s fake … and everyone knows it.

  56. I totally understand his comment in the first place…I’ve been saying that about the NBA for years!

  57. I have been a diehard NFL fan for over 25 years. This $hit is really starting to turn me off. I watch my teams games and don’t really watch much else anymore. So tired of these supposed toughest guys in this hard hitting game being such wusses. It’s getting Really Tired Really Fast.

  58. myvietnamwasfightingtheclap says:
    October 27, 2017 at 3:14 pm
    If you’re working in an environment where you don’t have a voice because you’re not the boss, you have made some very poor life choices. Blame yourself.

    ************************************************************
    Its called…..the way it is!!!!! The people who pay your salary, make the decisions on how to be profitable..which….pays your salary. You want to “have a voice”…..become an owner, take the risk of the business on yourself, make it profitable…..and while your at it….ask every employee what they think you should do with that business. I bet you wont like it much!

  59. A common expression used in these situations is “geesh, everyone is offended by everything these days.”
    Granted it is just an expression, like we cant have the inmates running the asylum, but its not factual and I don’t believe it applies.

    Everyone isn’t offended. I believe the same few that have always been offended are still offended. Its just now to many of the normal people, who used to have sense, now quiver in fear at these few sniveling idiots and pretend they carry significant power or influence. The reality is the whiners are given any power they have by the normal folks handing them their balls. When the real response should be to tell them to grow their own and shut up.

    In turn people without a leg to stand on have learnt that if they pretend to be offended, they too can reap the benefits.

  60. Uhhhhhhhhhhhh…regardless of whether or not this statement is an accepted metaphor or not the intent should be taken as offensive to the players. Yes, they are employees, but they are employees with specific skill sets that are valuable to this/ this companies. Anyone who thinks that ownership can just dictate what’s deemed as unfair policy to employees, especially employees that drive the success of said company, is doomed to ruin their company. So because most of you are of little to no big importance to the companies you work for, you think that you’re supposed to kiss ownerships boots, but it works differently for those employees that drive the success of companies. These are stupid comments by most of you.

  61. People are not really offended…it is fraudulent offense meant to cause dissent and to disrupt. Those who subscribe to this are useful idiot operatives of a movement designed to weaken the construct and promote anarchy. This is just one example of many.

  62. This will end up costing them games when they can easily win this division. I’ll grab my popcorn and watch the snowflakes melt in Houston.

    Pathetic “grown men”. Weep for the culture.

  63. Wait a minute, he apologized for unintentionally offending his employees rather than get defensive and call everyone a snowflake? What a novel concept.

  64. Millionaires with inferiority complexes, that is funny. If he said that we can’t have the slaves running the plantation, that could be offensive.

    But this a figure of speech.
    How is patients running the asylum?

  65. The entire point of the protest is problems with the criminal justice system, and this guy makes a prison comment? It’s just plain dumb, and not even the correct saying. Probably a Freudian slip. Even the actual saying is not that common, heard more often in movies. I have never once in 25 years of working heard it in a professional environment. No smart or caring manager, executive or business owner would refer to his or her employees as inmates in an asylum, let along a prison. So cut the excuse-making. All of those whining about political correctness are probably the same folks who threw a fit over one minute of kneeling before the game. This man is an idiot, and should have apologized. The owners are the bosses but they are NOTHING without the players. They would do well to remember that.

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