Texans coach Bill O'Brien on NFL social justice protests: 'I have the players' backs'

Kenny Stills is by far one of the most outspoken players in the NFL.

Stills frequently advocates for social justice issues, has been kneeling during the national anthem before games for years and was extremely critical of Jay-Z’s new partnership with the NFL.

While he hasn’t always had his organization’s support in the past, it sounds like that’s going to change in Houston.

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"Relative to any social justice initiatives, you guys know my history with the Texans," Texans coach Bill O’Brien said Monday, via the Houston Chronicle. "I love the players. I have the players' backs. We communicate about those things. I'm not going to get into any discussions I have with any player about those things, but I support the players in social justice initiatives."

The Dolphins traded Stills to the Texans last week, along with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, for a slew of draft picks.

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Miami Dolphins players kneel during national anthem
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Miami Dolphins players kneel during national anthem
Sep 9, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills (left) and Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (right) both kneel during the national anthem prior to a game against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 09: Receivers Kenny Stills #10 and Albert Wilson #15 of the Miami Dolphins sit on the bench during the playing of the national anthem prior to playing against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 09: Robert Quinn #94 of the Miami Dolphins raises his fist during the National Anthem against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 09: Albert Wilson #15 and Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins sit during the National Anthem against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 09: Albert Wilson #15 and Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins sit during the National Anthem against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
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Though Stills’ arrival in Houston may not be the perfect landing spot for the 27-year-old — late team owner Bob McNair said in 2017 that the league “can’t have inmates running the prison,” referring to protests during the national anthem — it should be better than it was in Miami.

Stills was at odds with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross over his very public support for President Donald Trump, and called him out in August for hosting a fundraiser for his re-election campaign.

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First-year head coach Brian Flores then seemingly trolled the wide receiver in practice last month, too, by playing eight Jay-Z songs in a row. The move came just one day after Stills spoke out against the rapper’s new partnership with the NFL. Flores, though, insisted that he supports social justice protests.

The Texans have only had one game where players took a knee during the national anthem, which came immediately after McNair’s inmate comments. While O’Brien didn’t comment specifically about Stills’ intentions for their Week 1 game against the New Orleans Saints, he did make it clear that he’s on his side.

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Pro athletes protesting during the national anthem
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Pro athletes protesting during the national anthem
Sep 10, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett (80) holds his fist in the air during the national anthem prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 10: Michael Bennett #72 of the Seattle Seahawks sits on the bench during the national anthem prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 10, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Bennett was controversially detained by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on August 27, after the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor UFC fight. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 26: Offensive tackle Cameron Jefferson #60 of the Buffalo Bills raises his arm and makes a fist during the national anthem before playing against the Baltimore Ravens during a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 26, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 27: Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneels dugout the National Anthem before the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on August 27, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 21: A group of Cleveland Browns players kneel in a circle in protest during the national anthem prior to a preseason game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Aug 21, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Members of the Cleveland Browns kneel during the national anthem before a game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 17: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles holds his fist in the air while Chris Long #56 of the Philadelphia Eagles puts his arm around him during the national anthem prior to the preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field on August 17, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneels in protest during the national anthem prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 02: (L-R) Rashard Robinson #33, Antoine Bethea #41, and Jaquiski Tartt #29 of the San Francisco 49ers raise their fists in protest during the national anthem prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Brandon Marshall #54 of the Denver Broncos takes a knee in protest during the National Anthem before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.The Broncos defeated the Bengals 29-17. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: Duane Brown #76 of the Houston Texans raises his fist during the national anthem before the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins (C) kneels during the national anthem before the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Eagles players Steven Means (51), Malcolm Jenkins (27) and Ron Brooks (33) raise their fists in the air during the national anthem for a game against the Chicago Bears on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Sep 8, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos inside linebacker Brandon Marshall (54) kneels during the national anthem next to defensive end Jared Crick (93) and defensive tackle Billy Winn (97) and defensive tackle Adam Gotsis (99) before the game against the Carolina Panthers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Kenny Britt #18 and Robert Quinn #94 of the Los Angeles Rams raise their fists in protest prior to playing the San Francisco 49ers in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 06: Miami Dolphins Safety Michael Thomas (31) and Miami Dolphins Wide Receiver Kenny Stills (10) kneel in protest during signing of the National Anthem during the NFL football game between the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins on November 6, 2016, at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. (Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 06: (L-R) Eli Harold #58, Colin Kaepernick #7, and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to their NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hayes Pullard #52 of the Jacksonville aJaguars nd Dante Fowler #56 raise their fists in protest during the singing of the national anthem before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Field on September 25, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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O’Brien defends roster moves, Clowney trade

Many across the league were taken aback by the Texans’ roster moves on Saturday, most notably by sending Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks.

In return, the Texans received a third-round draft pick and a pair of defenders, though neither are expected to make major waves. Houston gave up a lot to get Stills and Tunsil, too — sending a pair of first-round picks and a second-round pick to Miami.

O’Brien, however, doesn’t care about any outside criticism regarding the roster moves.

They were part of a well thought-out plan, he said, and thinks it can help improve the roster down the road.

“I understand everybody's going to dissect how we did it, what we got back and what we gave Seattle," O'Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “We can't control what the outside world thinks. We try to do the best we can to make the best decisions possible to help us win. We understand that how much we win will determine our future.”

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