Houston Texans owner Bob McNair issued an apology Friday for using the phrase "We can't have the inmates running the prison" in relation to NFL players protesting during the national anthem.
McNair was quoted in ESPN the Magazine as making the comment during a recent meeting of NFL owners and executives to discuss the league's anthem controversy. According to the article by Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr., "that statement stunned some in the room."
Troy Vincent, a former player and the NFL's current executive vice president of football operations, stood up at the meeting and said he was offended by the characterization of players as inmates, Wickersham and Van Natta reported. They added that McNair later took Vincent aside and apologized, saying he didn't mean the words literally.
McNair expressed the same sentiment in his statement on Friday.
"I regret that I used that expression," he stated. "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."
President Trump has criticized NFL players this season for kneeling during the national anthem and has called for owners to fire players who protest in such a manner. McNair donated millions of dollars to Trump's presidential campaign.
Many NFL players, both current and former, are unhappy with McNair's comment, even after his apology, and expressed their displeasure on social media.