A Houston Texans players staged a mass protest during the national anthem prior to their game on Oct. 29.
The team was reacting to owner Bob McNair's description of the players as "inmates," reports the Daily Mail.
Dozens of Texans players knelt for the national anthem and linked arms while standing on the sideline before their game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Several Seahawks players also continued their protest as part of the movement that began in 2016 when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested racial injustice by refusing to stand during the traditional playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Texans players held a meeting on Oct. 28 to decide what to do after McNair said they "can't have the inmates running the prison yard" while discussing his frustration with the way that the protest had affected the NFL's business.
The players reportedly discussed removing the team's decals from their helmets, but decided against it, according to lineman Duane Brown's comments to ESPN prior to the game.
"I think the comments were disrespectful, I think it was ignorant, I think it was embarrassing," Brown said on Oct. 27, reports the Houston Chronicle. "I think it angered a lot of players, including myself. We put our bodies and minds on the line every time we step on the field. To use an analogy of inmates in prison, I would say that's disrespectful. That's how I feel about it."
McNair made the statement during a recent owners meeting, during which he encouraged the league to take a hard stance against players who kneel during the national anthem.
The owner had a private meeting with his team to address the controversy. "I know they were upset,' he told the Houston Chronicle on Oct. 28. "I wanted to answer their questions. I told them if I had it to do over again I wouldn't use that expression."
He later issued his second statement, attempting to clarify what he meant, according to ESPN:
As I said yesterday, I was not referring to our players when I made a very regretful comment during the owners meetings last week. ... I was referring to the relationship between the league office and team owners and how they have been making significant strategic decisions affecting our league without adequate input from ownership over the past few years.
I am truly sorry to the players for how this has impacted them and the perception that it has created of me, which could not be further from the truth. Our focus going forward, personally and as an organization, will be towards making meaningful progress regarding the social issues that mean so much to our players and our community.
Duane Brown put McNair's comments into perspective of the overall NFL protests. "It's frustrating the climate we're in, as a country, as a league. The climate that we're in right now to have that be said is crazy. To have that said, it's horrible. It's frustrating, but I don't think it should discourage anybody. I think you stand with your beliefs. They feel how they feel. You've got to continue to feel how you feel. Hopefully at some point, we'll meet at some kind of middle ground."