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Bob McNair

RIP, Bob McNair

The Houston Texans owner has passed away.

The death of Texans owner and founder Bob McNair rocked the NFL, the city of Houston and his players and coaches Friday, sparking rich remembrances of his life and legacy.

McNair was 81 years old and had battled skin cancer for years. He had been in poor health for several months.

McNair leaves behind a first-place AFC South franchise that had been entrusted by him to stable leadership provided by his son, chief operating officer Cal McNair, coach Bill O’Brien, general manager Brian Gaine and longtime team president Jamey Rootes.

From his instrumental role in returning the NFL to Houston after the departure of the Oilers to Tennessee to his philanthropic contributions and warm, approachable personality, McNair was recalled fondly upon his death.

McNair is a seminal figure in Houston sports for bringing the NFL back to Houston. It’s not often mentioned these days, but at the time everyone assumed Los Angeles was going to get the expansion franchise that eventually became the Texans. He’ll be long remembered in Houston for that, and for his longtime civic and charitable participation. He also had a long history in Republican and conservative politics, none of which was mentioned in this story. That’s a topic for another time. For now, my condolences to the McNair family.

Texans take a knee

Good for them.

On Sunday afternoon, before the Houston Texans faced off against the Seattle Seahawks in Washington, all but approximately 10 Texans took a knee during the national anthem.

This was a direct response to Texans owner Bob McNair after an ESPN report on Friday revealed that, during a meeting with other NFL owners, McNair said the league needed to put a stop to protests during the national anthem because, “We can’t have inmates running the prison.”

McNair’s comments were particularly jarring considering that the protests — which began at the start of the 2016 season when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem — are a way to draw attention to police brutality and systemic racism, which the criminal justice system only exemplifies.

[…]

McNair issued two apologies, one on Friday and one on Saturday. He also reportedly spoke with the players directly on Saturday.

“As I said yesterday, I was not referring to our players when I made a very regretful comment during the owners meetings last week,” McNair said on Saturday in his second official apology regarding his comments. “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.”

But an unnamed player on the Texans told Josina Anderson of ESPN that he did not accept McNair’s apology.

“I think as an owner and as a business man that is something you can’t really say,” the defensive player said. “My reaction is: that’s unacceptable and I don’t want to even hear an apology, or anything like that, because I feel like you knew what you said because you were in a room where you didn’t think it was going to leak out; so you said how you feel. So, that’s how I feel about it.”

You’ve probably seen coverage of this over the weekend, but you can refer to this ThinkProgress story, Deadspin, and the Chron for a refresher. If there’s one reason why I’ve never embraced the Texans, it’s Bob McNair. All I can say is I look forward to the day when he finally sells the team.

What will the NBA do with Charlotte?

We are still waiting to see if NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will follow through with a threat to move the NBA All-Star Game out of Charlotte after North Carolina passed its odious anti-LGBT law HB2.

RedEquality

Houston’s 2015 defeat of Proposition 1, an anti-discrimination ordinance known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), could jeopardize future efforts to land NBA All Star events if the league views the Houston laws as similar to the North Carolina law that has the league considering withdrawing the 2017 All Star week from Charlotte.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, while enumerating again the league’s objection to holding its showcase event in Charlotte following the controversial passage of HB2, said Tuesday the NBA has specifically looked at laws in Houston and NBA cities while examining options in Charlotte.

“We’ve been looking closely at the laws in all the jurisdictions in which we play,” Silver said when asked if the league has specifically considered the laws in Houston.

[…]

Silver said in April that the NBA has been “crystal clear” that the league would not hold the All-Star events in Charlotte if the law remains unchanged. No decision about the 2017 game was made at Tuesday’s Board of Governors meeting.

“We were frankly hoping they would take some steps toward modifying the legislation and frankly are disappointed that they didn’t,” Silver said. “Coming out of the legislative session, we wanted the opportunity to talk directly to our teams. This is a very core issue for us and we’re trying to be extremely cautious and deliberate in how we go about making the decision. We’re not trying to keep everyone in suspense. We realize we need to make this decision very quickly.”

Yes, they do. There are logistical issues with relocating the All-Star Game, as there would have been with moving the 2017 Super Bowl out of Houston, which was a campaign issue during the HERO fight. I never believed the NFL would even consider moving the Super Bowl, as they stayed on the sidelines throughout the campaign and were highly likely to embarrass Bob McNair even if he hadn’t made and then rescinded a contribution to the anti-HERO forces.

The NBA on the other hand has publicly drawn a line in the sand, and now has to decide whether they really meant it or not, whatever the logistical challenges may be. My view as a parent is that if you threaten a consequence for bad behavior and then fail to enforce that consequence, the message you send is that you are tolerating said behavior. They could spin it however they wanted to if they choose to take no action – the logistics were too much to overcome, HB2 wasn’t in effect at the time they awarded the game to Charlotte, etc etc etc – but the message would be clearly understood by all. That includes the Texas Legislature, some of whose members are planning their own version of HB2 and who would have every reason to laugh off statements about future All-Star Games not just in Houston but also in San Antonio and Dallas if nothing happens to Charlotte.

I largely don’t care about the economics of this. One supports HERO and opposes HB2 because it’s the right thing to do, not because of any risk management decisions that some billionaires may be making. Polling data from the HERO campaign suggested that potential economic harm was something that affected people’s view, so it definitely needs to be factored in. If having the NBA All-Star Game yanked out of North Carolina gets people’s attention and makes it even marginally less likely that Texas adopts a similarly harsh and stupid law, it’s all to the good. Mostly, I feel that if the NBA is going to say they are going to do something, they ought to then go ahead and do it. We await your decision, Adam.

An Election 2015 threefer

Three links of interest that weren’t quite worth a post on their own.

Cort McMurray deconstructs Bob McNair:

It’s not easy, being Bob McNair. Back in the old days, being a Houston billionaire was fun: Whether you made your fortune in the oil patch or, like McNair, you cashed in your Enron stock at exactly the right time, just before the soufflé imploded, life was lunch at the Petroleum Club and dinnertime ribeyes at Confederate House, and doing pretty much whatever you pleased.

You made deals. You attended charity galas. You bought a football team. And you basked in the grateful approbation of your NFL-deprived city. Those were the days, my friend, when you could step in front of a microphone and ask, “Are you ready for some football?” and have an ocean of Houstonians cheering and lining up to buy official Tony Boselli replica jerseys.

You were a community pillar, the Great Philanthropist, the Teflon Billionaire. You negotiated a stadium deal that would have made Bud Adams blush, and the fans chanted your name. You gave your team the most lunkheaded name this side of “Shelbyville Shelbyvillians,” and they lined up to buy licensed merchandise. You drafted David Carr, and Amobi Okoye, and Jadeveon Clowney, and it was someone else’s fault. McNair was the Billionaire Philanthropist, and Billionaire Philanthropists made no apologies.

That’s what makes this whole anti-HERO mess such a shock.

[…]

NFL football is more than a business. The Texans don’t belong to us, but they’re ours. Sports teams are the last unifying institution, the binding agent in a city that’s diffuse and diverse and in so many ways, divided. And while we’re glad the Rockets and the Astros are around, we only care about them when they’re winning. The Texans are different. The Texans are our football team.

McNair’s anti-HERO donation, despite his press release protestations that the contribution was a sincere attempt to encourage “a thoughtful rewrite” of problematic wording in the legislation, an effort to craft an ordinance that “would be less divisive of our city,” was a reminder that the Texans aren’t really Houston’s team; they belong to a Philanthropist Billionaire, who does what he pleases.

There is a surprised, hurt tone to the McNair’s press statement. From the pretzel logic opening — McNair argues that he made the anti-HERO donation so the city could craft an even better HERO ordinance — to the non sequitur Robert Kennedy quotation about ordinary folks changing history at the close, McNair sounds like a guy who can’t understand the fuss: He knows people are mad; he can’t figure out why. If dogs who were caught pawing through the kitchen garbage pail could write press releases, they would all sound like McNair’s statement on HERO.

Any relationship between McNair’s behavior and his team’s recent performance is strictly coincidental, I’m sure.

Jef Rouner says what a lot of people I know have been thinking:

This is the scenario people opposed to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance want me to believe is going to happen: my little girl, all pink eyeglasses, blond curls, and a sass level over 9,000, will need to use a public restroom at the park or a restaurant. Once in there she will be at the mercy of a transwoman, maybe even one with a penis, who will use the rights protected by HERO to… what? Pee within a certain amount of feet from her? Expose herself? Molest her? What diabolical she-penis monstrosity has the City unleashed on our powerless womenfolk?

I’ve got to tell you I know a fair amount of trans folks, and the idea of any of them in the bathroom with my daughter scares me way less than the thought of someone who honestly holds these beliefs being in there with her does.

For once, I can honestly advise you to read the comments following the story. The couple of idiots who snuck in got roundly knocked down by everyone else. It’s almost enough to restore your faith.

And finally, the Trib covers the Mayor’s race.

Adrian Garcia, once a solid frontrunner and potentially the city’s first Hispanic mayor, has seen his support slip amid increased scrutiny of his tenure as Harris County sheriff. Former Kemah Mayor Bill King appears to be consolidating Republican support that had been splintered among a number of hopefuls. And the whole field — including Sylvester Turner, who appears guaranteed a berth in a runoff — are starting to sense a No. 2 spot on the second-round ballot that is increasingly up for grabs.

“It’s going to be Turner and,” local political analyst Nancy Sims said, pausing for effect. “It’s the ‘and’ we don’t know the answer to right now.”

A batch of recent polls show Garcia and King neck-and-neck, finishing second in the race to replace term-limited Annise Parker, whose 2009 election made Houston the largest U.S. city with an openly gay mayor. Yet the surveys have found at least two other candidates bunched near Garcia and King within the margins of error, and election watchers are urging caution with nearly half the respondents undecided in one poll.

Watching the battle for No. 2 unfold has been Turner, the 26-year state representative who is making his third bid for City Hall. Armed with high name recognition and a reliable African-American base, he is seen as a lock for the runoff, and analysts say such inevitability has persuaded rivals not to waste their time attacking him, letting him float above the fray — for now.

Yeah, the runoff will be very different, and I agree with Nancy Sims that at this point no one is willing to stick their neck out and predict who will join Turner in the December race. Choose which Election Night watch party you go to carefully, there’s a good chance that it could be a bummer for your host.

McNair rescinds anti-HERO contribution

Well, what do you know?

HoustonUnites

Earlier this month, billionaire Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans NFL team, donated $10,000 to the Campaign for Houston, a coalition working to defeat the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). That campaign has repeatedly attempted to demonize transgender women as sexual predators in an attempt to defeat the LGBT nondiscrimination protections.

On Friday, ThinkProgress received a statement from McNair declaring that he disagrees with the language the Campaign for Houston has used in its efforts and that he does not “believe in or tolerate personal or professional discrimination of any kind.” As such, he has demanded they return his campaign contribution:

I recently made a personal contribution to Campaign for Houston because my thorough review of the HERO ordinance led me to believe that a thoughtful rewrite would provide a better ordinance that would provide strong non-discrimination protections for all Houstonians, which I would support, and would be less divisive of our city.

It was on these principles that I made my personal contribution to Campaign for Houston. To my great dismay, Campaign for Houston made numerous unauthorized statements about my opposition to HERO in print, broadcast and social media – including attributing certain statements of belief to me. Their actions and statements were never discussed with nor approved by me. Therefore I instructed the Campaign to return my contribution.

I do not believe in or tolerate personal or professional discrimination of any kind. I also believe that we Houstonians should have an ordinance that unites our community and provides a bold statement of non-discrimination. I encourage all Houstonians to vote on November 3.

Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work together to change a small portion of events, and in the total of those acts will be written the history of our generation.”

Conservatives had praised McNair’s donation, claiming that it ruled out any possibility the NFL might pull the Super Bowl from Houston if HERO didn’t pass.

Richard Carlbom, director of the Houston Unites campaign advocating for the passage of HERO, praised McNair’s decision in a statement to ThinkProgress:

Like Bob McNair, many Houstonians are taking a step back and realizing the opposition’s ads on the Equal Rights Ordinance are intended to raise anxiety with outright distortions and quite frankly lies. When you take a second look, the Equal Rights Ordinance protects all Houstonians from discrimination and makes Houston a place everyone can be proud to call home. And that’s why the majority of small and large businesses in Houston support Proposition 1.

McNair had previously justified his donation by claiming that he believes Houstonians “should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect” but that HERO had “begun to separate rather than unite our community.”

See here for the background. Gotta say, I didn’t expect this. I wonder where the pressure came from that got to him. I don’t think he’s uninformed enough to have not been aware of what the Campaign for Houston was about – if he was so uninformed, he probably needs to yell at a staffer or three – and I’m not nearly naive enough to think he went out and educated his own self about this and came to this conclusion on his own. Whoever was able to make him see the light of day, kudos to you, and kudos to ThinkProgress for their excellent coverage of the HERO referendum. Be sure to read this story of theirs, about which I hope to say more later. The Chron story on the McNair mind-change is here, and the Press and BOR have more.

Who cares about Bob McNair?

Another bad decision.

HoustonUnites

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair donated $10,000 this week to opponents of the city’s embattled equal rights ordinance, entering the political fray over the law headed to voters in November.

McNair, a frequent GOP donor, mailed the $10,000 check to opponents earlier this week, according to Campaign for Houston spokesman Jared Woodfill. He said the donation “was very exciting for us.”

Critics of the law, largely Christian conservatives, object to the non-discrimination protections it extends to gay and transgender residents — the law also lists 13 other protected groups. Supporters of the ordinance, including Mayor Annise Parker, have warned that repealing the law could damage the city’s economy and could jeopardize high-profile events such as Houston’s 2017 Super Bowl.

Woodfill pushed back on that notion Wednesday.

“The HERO supporters have tried to scare people into believing that we would lose the Super Bowl,” Woodfill said. “Obviously, if there were any truth behind that, Bob McNair wouldn’t’ be donating to the folks that are opposed to the ordinance.”

Here’s the longer version of the story. As Campos notes, there is something to that. I’ve always been skeptical about claims we could lose the Super Bowl if HERO is voted down for the simple reason that logistically, it would be very hard to do and would inconvenience a lot of people. The NFL doesn’t want to do that unless it absolutely has to, and I don’t think there would be enough of a national outcry to make that happen. What I do expect is that a defeat for HERO would jeopardize our chances of landing other big events, sporting and otherwise, and would likely cause some planners of events that are already on the calendar here, at the George R. Brown and big hotels, to reconsider and find alternate options.

So Woodfill gets a symbolic trophy, for whatever good it does him. It would be nice if this story went national, as a lot of other HERO-related news has done, as it might put a little heat on McNair and generally serve as bad publicity for him and his team. The Texans aren’t exactly a revered franchise outside of Houston, so a little ridicule there could go a long way. In the meantime, this story appeared in the paper the same day that this full-page ad ran in the local section:

HoustonBusinessLeadersEndorseHERO

For those who have been trying to claim that HERO is only of concern to the LGBT community, note the presence there of the NAACP, the Greater Houston Black Chamber, the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and among the individuals, the President of the Houston Urban League, Judson Robinson III. There was also this in my feeds from yesterday:

As the Texas director of AARP, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization for all persons age 50 and older, I am proud that this Association — with 38 million members, including more than 2.2 million in Texas — believes firmly in the fundamental right of all people to be free from discrimination.

Approval of HERO by voters would help ensure that Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, provides its residents and visitors with an environment free of discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy.

There are lots of people talking about why HERO matters, to them and to the city. The Houston Area Women’s Center has been heavily involved to help debunk the dangerous and pernicious falsehoods that liars like Jared Woodfill have been spreading, now with the assistance of a fool like Bob McNair. The Press has more.

Will the Astrodome derail our Super Bowl bid?

Heaven forbid.

Is the end in sight?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told a crowd on Tuesday that by 2017, Reliant will be 15 years old and therefore in need of some upgrades like digital scoreboards. Texans owner Bob McNair says the city must look at all its venues when wooing the NFL, and on the top of that list is the Astrodome.

At a luncheon in downtown Tuesday afternoon, Goodell talked about only one facility as he addressed Houston’s bid for Super Bowl 51.

“The stadium is critical to any Super Bowl bid. That’s our stage,” he said.

But McNair is clearly concerned about the one that sits right next to it.

“We need to come to the conclusion as to what’s going to be done with the Astrodome. It’s not a pretty sight sitting there now and it’s noticeable and people comment on it, so we need to make a decision and move on,” McNair said.

Once again, what to do with the Astrodomee; this time as it affects the city’s chance of hosting a third Super Bowl in 2017, and leading the charge for urgency is McNair.

“It’s just another issue and the better the facilities are that we can make available to the league, the more attractive Houston is as a site,” McNair said.

And the so-called Eighth Wonder of the World, as it is, is useless. It’s a costly health hazard that’s been closed for five years.

Demolition and repurposing are on the table. Harris County commissioners want the people to decide at the ballot box sometime next year. It can still fit into the bid timeline, says Greg Ortale with the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, but addressing it is a must.

“I think if we don’t address it in the bid, I think it could be a problem,” Ortale said.

That sound you hear is County Judge Ed Emmett breaking open a new case of Maalox. Commissioners Court chose to defer on a Dome-related referendum this year. We may have yet another report on what to do with the Dome, but we don’t have a consensus yet, and it’s not clear to me how a vote on the Dome’s fate would go. But since I’m sure that nobody will want to be blamed for fumbling away the opportunity to host another Super Bowl, I feel fairly confident that we’re going to get the chance to take that vote real soon.

The Chron doesn’t mention the Dome, but it does discuss the scoreboard in Reliant Stadium as another thing that Must Be Dealt With before the NFL makes its decision.

Mark Miller, general manager of SMG-Reliant Park, explained what has to happen for Reliant Stadium to get a new digital scoreboard in time for the 2013 season.

“It would be physically possible to be in by next season, but it would be an issue of whether the funding would work out,” Miller said. “Right now, we’re working with the Texans, the rodeo and the county to see what we can do to get a new scoreboard.

“We’ve got a number of issues with it, but the one (scoreboard) we have now is an older format that really causes problems with the resolution — the overall picture. We’re trying to get it back to standard, an exciting enhancement for the fans.

“Hopefully, it’ll be state-of-the-art for a long time.”

The Texans and the rodeo will have to agree on a new scoreboard, and then they’ll have to work out a plan with the county to pay for it. Representatives of the rodeo are “taking the lead,” according to Miller, and talking with manufacturers of scoreboards.

I’m thinking that with the pace of technological change, nothing is “state of the art” for long. I’d settle for “sufficiently adequate”, with the capability to up upgraded or expanded or whatever in a cost-effective manner, for a long time. The cost estimate for a new scoreboard ranges from $10 million to $30 million, and some of that money could come from a state trust fund that uses tax money to help communities play host to major sports events, of which both Reliant and JerryWorld have been beneficiaries. Frankly, the scoreboard will be the much easier obstacle to overcome than the Dome.

What about Bob?

Chron columnist Jerome Solomon has a question for Houston Texans owner Bob McNair.

Texans owner Bob McNair, who won’t talk about the CBA negotiations, should come out strongly against a lockout.

Though he has pocketed plenty as an NFL owner, McNair has said on a number of occasions that he didn’t get into this business to make money.

If that is indeed the case, he should put his mouth where his money is.

If McNair was willing to take a stand in support of Brian Cushing’s dubious claim about the cause of a failed performance-enhancing drug test, shouldn’t he be willing to take a stand in favor of the fans of Houston who have supported his Texans for nine seasons?

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting. Whatever McNair’s feelings about the impending lockout, which is looking more likely every day, I doubt he’ll go rogue and express an opinion that might undercut his fellow owners in public. But by all means, fans should put pressure on the owners in every NFL town to get real and let the players play. It can’t hurt and who knows, they may even listen.

On a side note, I wonder what the effect of a lockout might have on the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority’s ability to make payments on its debts. Their revenues are dependent in part on stadium receipts, and if there are no games, there are no receipts. What happens then? Maybe someone ought to ask McNair about that, too.

NFL passes new overtime rule

Good.

The National Football League owners have approved a change in overtime, starting with the playoffs following the 2010 season, that will modify the sudden-death format and prevent a team from winning a game with a field goal on the opening possession.

The vote was 28-4, with the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals voting against. It needed at least 24 votes to pass.

“It was really a good discussion in the sense that there’s been a lot of debate, both publicly and privately, over the rule — which is always good,” Competition Committee co-chair Rich McKay said in announcing the vote. “We’ve had this discussion for a number of years. We felt like this proposal, which we call ‘modified sudden death,’ was really an opportunity to make what we think was a pretty good rule — sudden death — even better.”

McKay stressed that the new overtime rule, which says the team receiving the kickoff can’t end the game on the first possession unless it scores a touchdown, will apply only to the playoffs.

“Part of the reason we have different rules is we have different consequences,” McKay said. “The consequences in the postseason are, go home if you don’t win. In the regular season, we have 15 other games.”

I would like to see this rule apply to all games, and despite what McKay says here the owners will consider expanding the new rule to the regular season in May. There are some wrinkles and subtleties to the new rule, concerning things like onside kicks and safeties, which just goes to show that you can never truly do anything the easy way in the NFL. Better make sure all of the refs get a thorough education on this. And yes, as promised, Texans owner Bob McNair voted for the rule change, and will support bringing it to the regular season as well.

McNair to vote to change overtime

Good for him.

Bob McNair will vote yes when NFL owners cast their ballots next week to change overtime for playoff games.

McNair doesn’t like the sudden-death system that’s been in place since 1974.

“I’m in favor of changing it,” McNair said. “I don’t like the prospects of going into overtime, losing a coin flip, and we might not even get the ball.”

The NFL spring meetings begin Sunday in Orlando, Fla., and the competition committee that includes Texans general manager Rick Smith is recommending that overtime be changed in the playoffs to allow each team at least one possession if the team that wins the coin toss kicks a field goal.

[…]

“They’re talking about something that makes sense,” McNair said. “I’d be in favor of something like that, where you can’t lose by a field goal on the first possession. I like it better if you have a chance to get the ball, too, and a touchdown wins.”

As you know, I prefer the college overtime system, which feels to me like extra innings in baseball. That it always allows each team a chance to be on offense is why I like it. But this change, however tiny, is still better than what the NFL has now.