He’s done it with aplomb, too, issuing statements or speaking through insulated mediums within the organization. Whether it was a controversial trade or decision – or the ever-present tension among fans over head coach Bill O’Brien’s handling of the team and decision-making – McNair has managed to avoid direct scrutiny.
Those days came to an end when Texans receiver Kenny Stills fired bluntly at the NFL’s statement about tensions swarming the nation in the wake of Houston native George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
The league’s long-controversial stance regarding player protests of the treatment of African-Americans and other minorities by law enforcement landed square in McNair’s lap.
He has a decision to make. And no matter what decision he makes – even if he chooses to ignore Stills’ statement – there will be repercussions.
The NFL’s statement Saturday evening regarding a multitude of often-violent protests gripping the country read, in part, “There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.”
Stills, who consistently has protested the issue during the National Anthem before NFL games, responded, “Save the bull----.”
A number of other NFL players also chided Commissioner Roger Goodell’s statement over the weekend. They pointed to outspoken former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick never getting a job in the league after becoming the face of the protests and the league’s own 2018 policy condemning them, threatening huge fines to teams.
The controversial policy ultimately was rescinded amid public backlash, but of course was not forgotten.
Now comes the dilemma facing McNair, whose father and founder of the Texans Bob McNair was firmly anti-protest, to the point many believe the team moved on from former tackle Duane Brown because he, too, protested.
If Cal McNair supports Stills, it would in essence co-sign Stills’ stance against the league’s statement and go against his father’s beliefs. It also would alienate a big chunk of fans in Houston and around the league who cringe at the thought of players protesting during the anthem.
If he condemns Stills’ words, it would not only impact the Texans’ locker room, but potentially affect future potential acquisitions and free agents.
And if he says nothing? Ignores it?
The silence would be deafening. And McNair’s perceived progress on the issue, which arrived when the Texans acquired Stills prior to the 2019 season, might vanish.
But now, a trade could be seen as a sign the Texans yet again are distancing themselves from a vocal social issue advocate.
The waters got much more turbulent around Kirby Drive over the weekend. The captain of the ship has a big, impactful decision to make.