RENTON Richard Sherman says for fans, for this weekend, it’s a darn good thing that all NFL contracts are not guaranteed.
He says if they were, there likely would not be a Seahawks game this weekend.
“Oh, yeah, those guys would probably sit this game out,” Seattle’s star cornerback said.
Those guys are the Houston Texans, the Seahawks’ opponent Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Players in Houston--and across the NFL, all the way out to Seattle--were angered and in many ways felt justified by comments published Friday by ESPN The Magazine from Texans owner Bob McNair.
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ESPN quoted McNair saying during last week’s league owners meeting, during discussions about ongoing player protests for social and racial equality during the national anthem before games: “We can't have the inmates running the prison.”
Because the NFL does not have guaranteed contracts for all--as do players in the NBA and Major League Baseball--the Texans and Seahawks will indeed play on Sunday.
McNair’s quote came within a lengthy story detailing what was said and done during meetings in New York that included 13 players and 11 team owners, plus NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and players’ union chief DeMaurice Smith. Most players who attended and have since commented were pleased at the progress they seemed to make with the league being more aware of their causes and sounding willing to make changes to promote and further them.
The sun was barely up in Seattle Friday when the Seahawks started reacting online to McNair’s words.
The Seahawks were still talking about their Sunday opponents’ owner--and his players--following practice Friday. That was hours after McNair issued a statement apologizing for the comment and stating he was using a figure of speech and did not intend for his words “inmate” and “prison” to be taken literally.
Way beside the point is that McNair, of course, mangled that figure of speech. Him using “prison” instead of “asylum” only made it worse, given the tenor of this NFL season from the player protests that have dominated it.
"I appreciate when people like that show who they really are,” Sherman said on his way out of the Seahawks’ locker room. “More people in the world have to be that kind and that open about how they really feel so you can identify them--and make sure you stay away from those kind of people, and keep those people out of power.
"But, you know, of course they have to sit back and apologize, because it’s politically correct to apologize. But eventually you have take people for their word and for who they are.
“For most players, even when once we apologize they still take what we said and judge us by it. So you should do the same with him."
Some of the Texans seemed to be doing that Friday.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston’s star receiver and an acquaintance of Sherman’s, was a no-show for the Texans’ practice. Nine other teammates left the Texans’ facility Friday. Star left tackle Duane Brown said he wasn’t surprised by his team owner’s comment. ESPN.com reported the Texans considered a boycott en masse of Friday’s practice and meetings.
Houston coach Bill O’Brien said he was “100 percent” with his players--and that the team would fly to Seattle on Saturday as scheduled and play in the game Sunday.
“We will be there when the ball is kicked off in Seattle,” O’Brien said.
Seahawks All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner empathized with Texans players--and denounced McNair and those who think like his comments suggest he does.
“It sucks for them. It sucks they have to deal with that,” Wagner said of the Texans, some of whom he said he counts as friends.
“I wouldn’t want to play for a guy like that.
“Like I said, people saying how they really feel. It’s not a surprise. They’ve been like that. They are just finally starting to say it.”
Wagner was asked if he was talking about NFL owners in general.
“I’m talking about people who feel that way,” he said.
Sherman said he doesn’t see this as a case of one step forward and two steps back with the league in advancing players’ causes of social and racial equality.
“No, I feel like it’s been forward progress, because even him exposing himself is progress. Because a lot of people who are racists, and don’t think that equality is right and don’t treat people equally, are incredible afraid to say it in public. They are incredibly afraid to say that in public because they are afraid of judgment--which should tell you something, which should tell you something about yourself and your ideas.
“But I think the more brave people got--you know, (President) Trump has exposed a lot of people. A lot of people are feeling...emboldened, they are feeling liberated, of sort, to say what they want to say, to really express their feelings. And I think once we get the honest truth out of everybody then the world will be a better place, because we want have to hide. People won’t be hiding behind their words. Then they will be ostracized from society. Then they will be looked at as the monsters that they are.
“It will be awesome.”