Houston Texans NFL football team owner Robert McNair arrives for meetings at the league headquarters in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NAACP Houston Branch leadership, elected officials and community activists have joined in one voice calling for a community meeting inviting Houston Texans owner Robert McNair to attend and explain the meaning behind his recent “inmates” comment. Also on the agenda is a discussion of steps needed for McNair to provide atonement for what some have called disrespectful, insulting and hurtful words injurious to Black Texans players, Houston’s Black community and the city as a whole.

The meeting is scheduled for tonight, Monday October 30 at the Community of Faith Church (1024 Pinemont Dr., Houston, 77091) starting at 7pm.

“We want to give Mr. McNair the opportunity, and I think he needs it, to explain to the citizens of this city, his constituents, many of whom are Texans fans, exactly what he did mean,” said Community of Faith’s Pastor James Dixon. “We’re inviting him to a community forum of leaders from across the city and citizens from across this community such that he can explain himself regarding these comments. But then we need to talk about how we have a healing path forward. What must be done in order for the community and society to know that the apology really has weight, because words without actions are weightless.”

McNair’s comment, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” was made at a recent meeting of NFL owners and league executives regarding player protests. He later apologized for misspeaking, saying, “I regret that I used that expression. 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.”

U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee counted herself as one of those who were offended. She joined the chorus calling for a community meeting with McNair.

We are a community that many of us stand in Commissioners’ Court and City Council to brag about Houston; our mayor, our many elected officials who come from a diverse community…so you can imagine how hurt and disappointed I am for those comments. For, those comments generate thought. They have to have come from thought and belief. And I think it is important that more than an apology for which we greatly appreciate, that we follow in the call that has been made, that this has to be resolved face-to-face.”

Jackson Lee expressed a connection between McNair’s comments and the criticism of the protests of Colin Kaepernick and other current and former NFL players using their platform to speak out against unpunished police brutality against the Black community.

“Colin Kaepernick had grievances; legitimate grievances. Those who are taking a knee are joining because those grievances are not being addressed. And those grievances play into what we’re now facing, which are the comments that have to be resolved,” added Jackson Lee. “We need to engage in real hard discussions to rise above the perceptions we have of each other. A meeting should be set up immediately as has been said because we need to go beyond the perceptions of all of us. And we need to end racial conflict.”

Certainly, part of the conversation at Monday’s planned meeting will be on the McNair statue scheduled to be erected in front of NRG Stadium.

“An apology is an admission of an offense,” said U.S. Congressman Al Green. “But the apology is not the atonement necessary for the grievance that has been created. So Mr. McNair you have to do more than apologize. One of the things you should consider doing is making it clear to others that you do not desire to have the statue of yourself placed before the stadium. You can stop it. You have the power. This is your opportunity to atone for your transgression.”

Commissioner Rodney Ellis weighed in, saying this moment should be about more than securing an apology from McNair.

“We ought to use this as an opportunity for Mr. McNair as well as any of the other owners to get out front; in front of solving racial inequalities in the criminal justice system in this country,” he said, while also addressing the issue of the McNair statue. “The worst thing we can do would be to glorify someone who made comments like this inadvertently or not, and put them on a pedestal in front of a publicly financed facility. There’s a reason why we’ve had all these protests around this country about statues, by the way.”

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