McNair, who died in November at 81, reportedly made the comment during a 2017 owners meeting while discussing how to approach the issue of players kneeling during the national anthem to protest issues of social injustice and police brutality.
“We can't have the inmates running the prison,” McNair — a campaign contributor to President Donald Trump — said at the meeting, according to ESPN.
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair
Houston Texans NFL expansion franchise owner Bob McNair makes a point
during a news conference announcing the signing of the team's first ten
players December 29, 2001 in Houston. The new franchise is currently
limited to ten players, can sign free agents January 8, 2002 but will
select the bulk of their roster during the NFL expansion draft February
18, 2002. REUTERS/Richard Carson
Mark Davis (L), son of Oakland Raider's owner Al Davis, talks with Houston Texans owner Bob McNair (C) as he is greeted on the field before their NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Houston October 9, 2011. Al Davis, the outspoken Hall of Fame owner of the National Football League's Oakland Raiders, died on Saturday at the age of 82, the team's official website reported. REUTERS/Richard Carson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL OBITUARY)
Former North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams (C) holds a Houston Texans jersey as he stands with Texans owner Bob McNair (R) and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue after being selected by the Texans as the first overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York April 29, 2006. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky
Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, greets Texans fans before his team's season opening NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers in San Diego, California September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL PROFILE)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 12: Owner Bob McNair of the Houston Texans looks on before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 12, 2006 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Texans defeated the Jaguars 13-10. (Photo by Bill Baptist/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - AUGUST 15: Houston Texans owner Bob McNair looks on during a pre-season game between the Houston Texans and New York Jets at Reliant Stadium on August 15, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
05 October 2008: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell(left) and Texans owner Bob McNair chat prior to game against the Colts at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX. (Photo by John Rivera /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 13: Houston Texans owner Bob McNair looks on prior to the 2013 AFC Divisional Playoffs game between the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, reacts after his team wins the game against the New York Jets at NRG Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Houston, Texas. The Texans defeated the Jets 24-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09: Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans talks with owner Bob McNair during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Kansas City Chiefs won 30-0. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 03: Tom Savage #3 of the Houston Texans talks with owner Bob McNair prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 14: Houston Texans owner Bob McNair on the sideline before the Houston Texans Vs New England Patriots Divisional round game during the NFL play-offs on January 14th, 2017 at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
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Hopkins: ‘Hell, yeah I was about to sit’
Hopkins, a Colin Kaepernick supporter who has knelt in protest, expounded on his response to McNair’s comments in the GQ interview.
“Hell yeah, I was about to sit out the game,” Hopkins said. “But I definitely wasn’t going to practice. A couple of my teammates about to follow me, but they called them back up to the stadium. They tried calling me, but I wasn't going back. Hell no.”
The seventh-year pro who grew up in South Carolina explained how McNair’s comments felt to a man who’s a descendant of slaves with family members who relayed stories about living in the Jim Crow South.
“It's hard for people to understand what that means, when your family was slaves,” Hopkins said. “You can't relate to something like that if your great-uncle's not telling you stories about their parents or their grandparents and what they went through. Not even too long ago, people couldn't even drink out of the same water faucet.”
Basically, Hopkins explained, it made him feel like he was being treated as a slave.
“It feels like I'm a slave again,” Hopkins said. “Getting ran over. Listen to the master, go to work.”
Hopkins gives McNair benefit of the doubt
Hopkins did go on to call McNair a “good man” in the interview, giving him the benefit of the doubt of his upbringing.
“When you grow up certain places, you talk a certain way,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins, a three-time Pro Bowler, continued to talk of his support of Kaepernick, noting that before DeShaun Watson arrived in Houston he hadn’t had the benefit of working with a Pro Bowl quarterback.
After working with the likes of Tom Savage, Brock Osweiler and T.J. Yates, Hopkins argued that it was obvious that Kaepernick was being blackballed from the NFL.
“Ain't no way around it,” Hopkins said. “You can't sugarcoat why Kaep is not playing in the NFL. This dude played in the Super Bowl.”