Texans left tackle Duane Brown told PFT on Saturday morning that he and his teammates would meet in Seattle to further discuss the reaction to owner Bob McNair’s comment that “[w]e can’t have the inmates running the prison.” Notwithstanding (or possibly fueled by) McNair’s effort to fix the situation both by meeting with them privately and by issuing a statement in which he claimed that “inmates” referred not to players but the league office, that meeting resulted in a strategy for action.
Per multiple reports, the Texans plan some sort of demonstration in connection with Sunday’s game against the Seahawks. ESPN reports that the players could kneel together during the national anthem, raise fists during the anthem, or remove the Texans decals from their helmets. Presumably, multiple gestures are possible.
Removing the decals from their helmets would be a direct shot at management and McNair. It’s unclear whether the move would subject them to discipline from the league office as a violation of the uniform policy. (It’s fairly certain that they don’t care about paying a relatively small fine — especially if the effort to fine them underscores the “inmate” point.)
Kneeling during the anthem would make the demonstration about more than the Texans (and it would invite a reaction from the Tweeter-in-Chief), but it would represent an exercise of the very real power held by the supposedly powerless players. As noted when addressing the message sent by the “inmates” remark, the players have the league over a barrel on the anthem issue, and the league hopes to say (and if necessary do) enough to make it go away. If the players keep exercising that power, the league eventually will have to choose whether to mandate standing (that ship has sailed) or to negotiate in a meaningful way with players a deal that would get them to agree to a new, joint policy requiring standing.
Until the latter happens, those who are deemed by the owners to have no real power in the relationship have real power over the relationship. Although those who believe that kneeling during the anthem always constitutes disrespect of the flag, the country, and the military won’t be willing to embrace the business realities of kneeling, it’s the reaction from those very people that will create a greater sense of urgency by ownership to fix the problem, once and for all.
And the only way to fix it, once and for all, could be for the owners to finally admit that, on this specific issue, they are the inmates.