Bob McNair’s use of “inmates” created an issue at recent meeting

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The recent ownership meetings, which became dominated by the anthem controversy, included plenty of interesting and compelling moments. Arguably the most inflammatory moment came when, according to Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta. Jr. of ESPN.com, Texans owner Bob McNair used a common figure of speech when referring to the power the players have acquired via the question of whether they’ll stand for the national anthem.

“We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” McNair said.

The remark came during an ownership-only session, without current players present. A former player, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent, reportedly took issue with the remark. He explained during the meeting that, even though he had been called “every name in the book” during his playing career, not once did he feel like an “inmate.”

Via the report, Vincent and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones then engaged in a “sharp but quick back-and-forth,” as Jones pointed out that it was the league’s owners who built the business and it is the league’s owners who will decide what to do about the situation. McNair would later apologize to Vincent, explaining (per the report) that McNair didn’t mean his words to be taken literally.

While McNair’s apology was warranted, “inmates running the asylum” is a common reference to situations where leadership is surrendered to those supposedly being led. Still, the choice of words invites the same kind of criticism that literal interpretation of the phrase “son of a bitch” sparked after President Trump used that term in reference to players who fail to stand for the anthem.

127 responses to “Bob McNair’s use of “inmates” created an issue at recent meeting

  1. McNair is one of the few NFL owners with standards. The Texans won’t hire (or draft) players with criminal records, behavioral issues, or the like.

  2. Keep politics and drama out of the NFL. I watch for a break from the daily crap the players are trying to inject in the game. Not to see more of it.

  3. only those who are criminals would feel outraged by that phrase. I thought troy vincent was both smarter and tougher than whining about words.

  4. OH MY GOD it’s an expression!

    I hate this new day and age where everyone can find “RACIST!!!!” in everything. I’m so glad I grew up and was taught the ability to critically think.

  5. political correctness at it’s finest. Now one gets attacked for using a common phrase to describe exactly what is going on in the NFL.

  6. McNair only stated what 70 % of the fans have said! He may actually be an owner who is in tune with the fans. I would imagine he is also concerned that NFL viewership is down 18.7 % since 2015, according to the Nielsen ratings! Now, what is the ONLY thing that has changed since then???

  7. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like the NFL was far better when we fans really didn’t know who owned the teams. Their names would sound familiar sure. I feel we know too much and hear to much form these guys that don’t matter as far as the game on the field is concerned.

    Off the field drama only hurts or takes away from the on the field drama that actually determines the outcomes of games and seasons. The 24/7 media cycle is probably why we get so much off the field drama.

    No offense Mike. As you give so many of us a platform to voice our opinions. So I do not intend to offend the very person that allows me a platform.

  8. This society is getting to where, you better have a PHD in English, so that you say everything to it’s literal meaning. Can’t use any phrases or “figures of speech” anymore.

  9. Seriously? It’s a figure of speech.

    Either way, Mcnair is right. THEY are the owners. Don’t let the players dictate what you want to do because its your money. However, its also their loss when players stop going to their team or fans stop paying.

  10. orangecrush67 says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:10 am
    That expression has been around forever…everyone knows what he means….but the snowflakes….political correctness is ruining this country

    —-

    Whats wrong with talking to others with respect? If you need to use an idiom to make your point, then you are probably too simple minded to solve a complex problem.

  11. There’s context to consider. Can’t imagine any of the dimwits on this board having the intellectual capacity to understand that

  12. He explained during the meeting that, even though he had been called “every name in the book” during his playing career, not once did he feel like an “inmate.”

    ______________________

    Hahahaha if he’s never felt like he’s been treated like an inmate, then what is he upset at?! Good grief, Vincent.

  13. These players perpetuate a victim mentality that just does not exist in most cases and this is just another example.

    Somebody should print Troy Vincent a list of commonly used metaphors complete with attached explanations…though it sounds like he would be offended by that gesture as well.

  14. He’s right and that is what is happening. When Trump mentions a lack of leadership in the NFL, he and McNair are alluding to the fact that the players are able to make decisions that affect the league and it ought to be put to an end before they slaughter the golden goose. Anyone offended by this more than likely received participation trophies and allowed their parents to ask for more playing time even though they sucked, rather than working hard and beating out others. Troy Vincent, quit playing politics and go play flag football, you’ll enjoy life much more.

  15. He explained during the meeting that, even though he had been called “every name in the book” during his playing career, not once did he feel like an “inmate.”

    Are you telling me inmates don’t get paid millions of dollars to play a game? And they don’t enjoy the liberties and freedoms that come with it? Wow. You really do learn something new every day.

  16. NFL is a legal Monopoly and imo the players are private contractors with limited rights as colleges are part of the scheme. They need to end the Monopoly and open up pro ball to other companies and then maybe these asylum will either get shutdown or start recognizing the players as equal partners.

  17. I still don’t understand what sort of “power” the players have demonstrated by their kneeling.

    I also don’t understand why the NFL hasn’t fixed this issue by now. Continuing to pretend like they care about whatever it is the players are kneeling for isn’t helping anyone.

  18. silvernblacksabbath says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:23 am
    NFL will be gone in 5 years. Bye bye

    You legit can not believe this. Every week they same people comment “done with the NFL” yet they are still here.

    It is a common expression however it was a poor choice of words.

  19. supra23 says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:19 am
    orangecrush67 says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:10 am
    That expression has been around forever…everyone knows what he means….but the snowflakes….political correctness is ruining this country

    —-

    Whats wrong with talking to others with respect? If you need to use an idiom to make your point, then you are probably too simple minded to solve a complex problem.

    He wasn’t talking to the players, he was talking at an owners meeting, where an NFL exec(former player) took offense. My god, have you not ever heard that expression? For those who don’t know what that expression means, don’t let the employees run our business… that better? ugh…

  20. I know how he feels. PETA has been all over me ever since I said, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!”

  21. The common phrase is ‘’inmates running the asylum,’’ not prison. An awful choice of words, though I’m sure the commentariat here sees no issue. Surprise.

  22. The real argument is Jerry Jones saying the owners built this league. The players built this league because without the players we are all watching baseball or basketball. The owners have caused all the problems. The owners will put just about anybody on the field of play as long as it increases their chance of a win so by that standard alone the owners have caused a trickle-down effect that goes all the way to pee wee football. Coaches teachers and administrators will Overlook just about anything to keep a good player on the field. That fact cannot be disputed in rare is the coach who decides doing the right thing is better than doing the thing that will get a win. The owners screw the pooch on the whole concussion matter. Had the owners decided to take care of the players in the 60s 70s and 80s who built this game instead of taking the cheap way out and trying to screw them on Healthcare likely there’s no concussion issue going on. Yes the dangers would all still be there but it would be decades before it saw the light of day because those guys would have been taken care of by the finest Medical Care available. But somebody probably decided that cost too much in the long run so they decided instead to pay however many billing it was in a payout to shut up the old players. Instead the truth got out that multiple head injuries are a pretty bad thing which takes exactly no medical degree to figure out but now everyone’s at least doing a double take when they see a hit to the head and thinking that could be my kid who just lost 10 IQ points. Last but not least they decided to militarized football in an effort to make more money. They parade veterans out there and yes I’m one a former 82nd Airborne paratrooper in an effort to glamorize the game even further and make more money. Now since they’ve Patriotized the game to high hell, we have this wonderful mess with Kaepernick etc etc. By the way the comment should not have been interpreted in the manner in which it was by Troy Vincent. That guy has never been too bright. Of course it was an idiom or a figure of speech. But we live in a world where every single thing you do now can be turned against you. Thank you NFL owners for screwing up everyone’s three or so our escape from reality every Sunday (or Thursday).

  23. This is why they kneel, look how this guy views his employees? Unbelievable. and you guys wonder why? seriously?

    In the real world, it’s common for the guy that signs the paycheck to tell his employees what to do. Don’t like being told what to do? Quit. If these players are so unhappy, they should quit and start their own league. But, we all know that will never happen.

  24. LakefrontLegend says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:29 am
    The common phrase is ‘’inmates running the asylum,’’ not prison. An awful choice of words, though I’m sure the commentariat here sees no issue. Surprise.

    ——
    so you would have been ok if he said asylum?

  25. orangecrush67 says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:10 am
    That expression has been around forever…everyone knows what he means….but the snowflakes….political correctness is ruining this country.
    ********************************************
    It really is, it’s way out of control.

  26. Everyone knows that is a normal saying and they understand exactly what it means. All this false outrage by the players does nothing to help their tarnished image in the eyes of the fans.

    Thankfully we have the NHL to save us from the NFL’s stupidity.

  27. To the loud mouths here….If it wasn’t FOR the players the owners would have ZERO!! OR do is that so simple you don’t get it???

  28. ponarona says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:25 am
    NFL is a legal Monopoly and imo the players are private contractors with limited rights as colleges are part of the scheme. They need to end the Monopoly and open up pro ball to other companies and then maybe these asylum will either get shutdown or start recognizing the players as equal partners.

    —————–

    It’s difficult to classify the NFL as a monopoly since it is made up of 32 individual organizations. Besides, they aren’t stopping another league from forming and playing ball. Several have tried, all have failed. This isn’t the NFL’s fault – blame the fans for fixating on the NFL and for not supporting an alternative league.

  29. sopadegato says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:10 am
    McNair is one of the few NFL owners with standards. The Texans won’t hire (or draft) players with criminal records, behavioral issues, or the like.
    _____________________
    Except he was fully behind Goodell during Goodell’s Deflategate lies. So we either have to question McNair’s integrity (knowing that Deflategate was 100% false) or his intelligence (not knowing basic middle school science).

  30. supra23 says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:19 am
    orangecrush67 says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:10 am
    That expression has been around forever…everyone knows what he means….but the snowflakes….political correctness is ruining this country

    —-

    Whats wrong with talking to others with respect? If you need to use an idiom to make your point, then you are probably too simple minded to solve a complex problem.

    —————
    Because being condescending like that intentionally trying to talk down to them is far more disrespectful than spinning a commonly used phrase.

  31. Lost in all the commentary over a turn of phrase is that someone saw fit to make sure what happened in a close door meeting of owners and execs got out. Which brings us to another common aphorism: There’s no honor among thieves.

  32. In a logical world, Vincent would have long ago lost his job over Deflategate. These people all deserve each other.

  33. I invented a machine that filters out from any spoken or written word all phrases and words that may offend somebody somewhere. I tried out the prototype last week. All that comes out of it is silence and blank pages.

  34. The Texans won’t hire (or draft) players with criminal records, behavioral issues, or the like.

    Brian Cushing says hello…

  35. This is what it has degenerated to, players looking for all kinds of offense, wanting to make themselves victims of something. The players have lost, and need to shut up and get back to playing football and doing the SJW stuff elsewhere.

  36. PC drama. If he took offense to a literal interpretation then he is a moron. It is a figure of speech (granted it was kinda like a malaphor/malaprop) and is never intended to be taken literally. If I use something like that and some idiot takes offense I wouldn’t apologize. Why should I have to apologize for their sensitivity/stupidity?

  37. It’s where they are looking to be offended so they can justify their boorish behavior.

    A common figure of speech has them completely upset but they can’t understand why disrespecting the flag to people who’ve had family, brothers and friends come home draped under that flag are angry.

    The knife cuts both ways. You can’t be hyper sensitive to anything/everything and insensitive to your own actions and their effects upon others.

  38. i dont know about being deeply offended by such a comment, but all of you that would be fine with your bosses saying such things have it really horrible, or are in a revolving door position that requires no skill.. If my boss thought i was so replaceable and deserved no input, I would be looking for a new job ASAP. In coming free agencies these owners who are not supportive, will find their team loosing players to teams that are.. or perhaps have college students come out and openly saying they wont play for them

  39. I said it the other day. The NFL IS letting the inmates run the asylum. When the league caves to anti American, anti cop demands from their players while the Commissioner sits on the fence trying to pander……Then we have to ask…who IS in charge of rules and regulations in the NFL?

    Some can be offended over the phrase all they want…, but this exactly what is happening…

  40. The real miss with most of the comments is that the owners think that they are more important to the league than the players. I don’t want to burst Mr McNair’s bubble, but no one watches football because of him. The owners need to start viewing the players collectively as partners or things like this are just going to get worse.

  41. If this was an owners only meeting behind closed doors then how does everybody know what was said. I’m pretty sure they haven’t made the transcrpt public. In my own organization somethimg like that getting would likely lead to a termination. And we are nowhere near as secretive as the NFL. But it still would because its understood you just dont do that.

  42. ponarona says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:25 am
    NFL is a legal Monopoly and imo the players are private contractors with limited rights as colleges are part of the scheme. They need to end the Monopoly and open up pro ball to other companies and then maybe these asylum will either get shutdown or start recognizing the players as equal partners.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    They are NOT equal partners and they never will be. The partners mantra only comes up when the CBA is due and it only refers to money. Whenever responsibility enters the partners equation the union runs and hides. They do not want a true partnership; they want more money.

  43. That is an analogy that has been around for years…maybe not the best choice of words, but, seriously folks…lighten up. And Jerry, The owners built the league into what it is today? I’m sorry Mr. Jones and fellow owners, but you are 1/3 of what built the league into what it is today. You are forgetting about the players who bust their butts and the fans who bust their wallets. The owners are nothing without the players and the fans. The players are nothing without the fans and the owners. The fans will be gone if the players and owners don’t understand how this works.

  44. It’s called an analogy, and it is a commonly used one at that.

    Some people really need to stop taking themselves so seriously and grow thicker skin. It’s getting and has been ridiculous of late.

  45. As usual, the truth always hurts. Its an old saying people. Get over it. Just like “if the shoe fits…..”

  46. There’ve been over 1,000 NFL players arrested just since 2000. I think the comment is fine, figuratively and literally.

  47. ch0rn says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:10 am
    Damn snowflakes cry about everything.

    ==================================

    I know, right? All of these snowflakes getting their panties in a bunch about some players kneeling during the national anthem and exercising their right of free speech is ridiculous, don’t you think? Don’t be so sensitive and just enjoy the football game!

  48. McNair only stated what 70 % of the fans have said!

    70% of fans have said that NFL players are out of control for kneeling during a song? Did they really?

  49. its an expression…anyone with a brain knows this…has nothing to do with race…sad times…

  50. ponarona says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:25 am
    NFL is a legal Monopoly and imo the players are private contractors with limited rights as colleges are part of the scheme. They need to end the Monopoly and open up pro ball to other companies and then maybe these asylum will either get shutdown or start recognizing the players as equal partners.
    —————————————
    Clearly you’re not old enough to remember the XFL. The XFL had the “let players be themselves” mantra and a “be physical like the game is supposed to be played” attitude. It folded after one season. The players acted incredibly ignorant when left to their own devices and without the structure NFL teams provided, the product was garbage. Fans recognized these things quickly and the ratings nosedived quickly, losing money for all parties involved. Networks will never again give time to a cut rate version of the NFL starring a bunch of clown athletes offering their uneducated opinions.

  51. The owners did not build that business, Jerry Jones. Johnny Unitas built that business, Vince Lombardi built that business, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning built that business, Gale Sayers built that business … Current owners simply reaped the benefits.

  52. Given the racial makeup of prisons and the NFL, it was a very poor word choice by McNair…sure, it’s probably not how he meant it, but still.

  53. 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 kneeled during the anthem.

  54. It’s not “inmates.” It’s “prison.” It was a very poor choice of words that even if not intended a certain way will bite the recipient.

    But McNair apologized fast and all things considered this is not that big a deal.

  55. orangecrush67 says:

    October 27, 2017 at 11:10 am

    That expression has been around forever…everyone knows what he means….but the snowflakes….political correctness is ruining this country

    ==========================

    McNair and Jones and the like are the sensitive ones here. They’re complaining about players quietly kneeling while they make loads of money off them.

  56. “McNair only stated what 70% of the fans have said!”.

    Nope. Your 70% number is based on a poll conducted by a two person firm with no other significant polls referenced on their website. The named owner has an extensive political background.

    In the parlance of the day, it is a fake poll.

  57. If he says “inmates running the league”. Okay that’s a problem. But his phrasing is a common idiom. Apologize for everything is the answer instead of a reasonable discourse.

  58. McNair only stated what 70 % of the fans have said! He may actually be an owner who is in tune with the fans. I would imagine he is also concerned that NFL viewership is down 18.7 % since 2015, according to the Nielsen ratings! Now, what is the ONLY thing that has changed since then???
    ______________________________________________________________________

    Over commercialization of the game, domestic abuse scandals, league office overreaching bounds on suspensions, more shutouts last week than in all of 2016, less than desirable matchups getting weekly marquees, the bottom dropping out of the QB skill gap, seemingly more frequent injuries to some of the games biggest stars, the cable cutting movement and rise of sunday ticket reducing the number of different sets displaying games……

  59. The “owners” built the league? What do you suppose the ratings would be to watch McNair light up Martha Firestone coming across the middle?
    _____________________________________________________________

    “JERRY JONES SACKED FOR A LOSS OF 24 by Kim Pegula!. Martha Ford and Jerry Richardson completely whiffed that block Tony. Yeah Jim, I dont know what Jerry was doing here, he had Art Blank wide open on the right sideline. Ran right past Robert Craft while he was trying to pay off an official.”

    Actually, that sounds really fun. Id watch that

  60. People are way over-reacting like usual. Nothing we can do about the snowflakes taking issue with a few words.

    He’s simply saying the players don’t make the rules; the owners make the rules. This has nothing to do with skin color or criminals for that matter. It’s a little phrase saying the players are running the show and that they shouldn’t be.

    Some people just need to learn to put the pacifier down and wear big boy pants.

  61. petersjeffrey36 says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:53 am
    i dont know about being deeply offended by such a comment, but all of you that would be fine with your bosses saying such things have it really horrible, or are in a revolving door position that requires no skill.. If my boss thought i was so replaceable and deserved no input, I would be looking for a new job ASAP. In coming free agencies these owners who are not supportive, will find their team loosing players to teams that are.. or perhaps have college students come out and openly saying they wont play for them

    —————-
    I think there is a misperception of what ‘having input’ means. This post seems to think that having input means being able to call the shots and it doesnt. It’s a give and take process where a persons management should be expected to hear them out and give careful consideration to what they say and then after that the person should be expected to adide by and support whatever the management ultimately decides.

  62. robf2010 says:
    October 27, 2017 at 12:42 pm
    The owners did not build that business, Jerry Jones. Johnny Unitas built that business, Vince Lombardi built that business, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning built that business, Gale Sayers built that business … Current owners simply reaped the benefits.

    ———————
    Sure owners are motivated by greed and are not infrequently cutthroat in their methods. But if it was not for owners you would have no idea who any of those people were.

  63. McNair is a lunatic…plain and simple. No further explanation is necessary. It is what it is…John Fox

  64. elvis2013 says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:13 am
    Keep politics and drama out of the NFL. I watch for a break from the daily crap the players are trying to inject in the game. Not to see more of it.
    __________________

    Don’t watch then. Pretty simple if you’re not satisfied.

  65. If people are upset by the use of this common phrase we have as a society jumped the shark.

    McNair didn’t use a common phrase.

  66. The irony here is that the fact the outcry McNair is gettiing over the use of the phrase simply validates the point he was making with it.

  67. logast says:
    October 27, 2017 at 1:57 pm
    Of course people are offended. That is the current state of this nation. What are you offended by today?

    —————-
    Well, since you ask…the Dolphins.

  68. “The irony here is that the fact the outcry McNair is getting over the use of the phrase simply validates the point he was making with it.”

    The tragedy is that you do not know the proper use of irony. And that you’ve failed to evolve into 2017. Only two months left, don’t fall farther behind.

  69. I don’t know McNair and others here commenting by sticking up for McNair or criticizing him don’t either. So how can these commentors possibly say for certain whether McNair is just using of a common expression or that it is a Freudian slip (parapraxis) by McNair? They can’t but the comments are adding up.

  70. ctiggs says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:13 am
    This is why they kneel, look how this guy views his employees? Unbelievable. and you guys wonder why? seriously?

    Well, seriously, it’s not the original explanation of kneeling. Not defending McNair at all but you don’t get to conflate one mans idiotic statement with the alleged cause behind the kneeling. Unless of course the cause is expanding in scope where situations become self serving.

  71. Jerry Jones & other current owners that are also ego maniacs thinking they built the business (NFL) better slow their roll. The Allegheny Athletic Association disagrees with them. Jones you are no Halas either. These current owners just brought their greed to new heights. They have done this by holding cities up as hostages with threats of leaving so they have the people of the cities pay for the owners stadiums. The stadiums that line the greedy owners pockets so well. And then after the kind folks of the community build these stadiums the greedy owners sell out with corporate names like AT& T stadium instead of having a name that reflects the community that built the stadium.

  72. bengal4life says:

    October 27, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    People are way over-reacting like usual. Nothing we can do about the snowflakes taking issue with a few words.

    He’s simply saying the players don’t make the rules; the owners make the rules. This has nothing to do with skin color or criminals for that matter. It’s a little phrase saying the players are running the show and that they shouldn’t be.

    Some people just need to learn to put the pacifier down and wear big boy pants.

    ======================

    Players are far from running the show. NFL has the weakest players union and article 46 gives the commissioner close to absolute power. And the owners also have power over the cities they do business in by holding them hostage to shake down taxpayers for expensive stadiums.

  73. Whine about “political correctness” all you want, but to say what McNair said in this climate, whether you agree with the protestors or not, is just plain stupid. McNair is a smart guy and he must have considered the double meaning some might interpret this as.

    Stupid comment, Bob< that shows you are out of touch. There is not a PR office or publicist in the world that would have written what he said.

  74. The choice of words struck a chord with the NFLPA who acknowledged that a great number of it’s current union will or have already served time as an inmate.

  75. I assume Vincent won’t be invited to the next meeting. What a jag off to leak that to the players. You know the owners didn’t run out and tell others

    It’s gonna run it’s course by 2021 when the stoke comes. Owners will be happy to replace whinny expensive players with game hungry guys who’ll show up and be happy to play. The stars will emerge, fans will cheer, and expenses will be cut. Just wait

  76. The players are paid for their on-field abilities, not for their often ill-informed political causes and faux outrage for common figures of speech.

    …and the NFL is still scratching its head wondering why ratings continue to drop?

  77. So many complaints about Vincent, players, etc., being overly sensitive, serially offended, etc. I don’t have a dog in this fight but it sure seems there are a lot of people being offended by other people being offended. It’s amazing how the tears being by shed by these true cowards far outweighs the tears shed in the first place that offends them so. But no, keep it up, tough guys. You’re the real heroes.

  78. It’s a common idiom, but I don’t think it’s usually used to refer to a transfer of power. It’s instead used when something has descended into incompetence or outright chaos. The inmates of an asylum are crazy… Therefore, the entire enterprise they’re running is dysfunctional.

    You generally use the idiom to insult the place itself, not the actual worker like McNair has done.

  79. McNair has said things like this before…it’s his own closed mindedness that brings these things out…That said, too many people think they are unique…To me, they’re just over emotional and have to control of their feelings.

  80. It’s a figure of speech. Its used all the time for the same types of situations. If you take this comment literally than you are stereotyping minorities as well! There are plenty of white inmates throughout this country people. Get a grip

  81. Er, dizil? The expression is “inmates running the ASYLUM”. “Inmates running the prison” is not an expression. Except to racists.

  82. “It’s a common idiom”

    No. It’s not.

    “Inmates running the asylum” is.

    “Inmates running the prison is not.

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