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Volume 25 No. 66
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Texans' McNair Remembered For Impact On Houston, Charity Work

McNair spent $700M in '98 to purchase the expansion Texans following the Oilers' move to Nashville
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Texans Owner BOB MCNAIR, one of the "more influential owners" in the NFL, died Friday at 81 after a battle with skin cancer, according to a front-page piece by David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Even while undergoing treatment, McNair "remained a visible part of the team’s daily life until his health worsened this year." McNair's wife JANICE "will assume the ownership role of the Texans," and their son CAL, who holds the titles of Chair & CEO, "will be in charge of daily operations." McNair's death was "mourned by players, coaches, executives and public figures who praised his personal virtues, business acumen and philanthropic contributions that rivaled in scope the hundreds of millions he spent on his football team." McNair spent $700M in '98 to purchase the expansion Texans, "filling a hole in Houston’s civic psyche left" when the late BUD ADAMS moved the Oilers to Nashville after the '96 season. McNair served as chair of the finance committee and sometimes was a "focal point for discussion in the swirling social and political climate that has surrounded the game in recent years" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/24). NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted McNair's passing "did not catch the Texans by surprise," as they had been "preparing for the last week or week and a half." He had been in "difficult condition of failing health." His visibility in NFL circles also had "diminished as his sickness grew over the last couple of weeks and months, and he unfortunately faded into the shadows as far as NFL owners go" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 11/23).

INFLUENTIAL FIGURE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Andrew Beaton noted McNair was "willing to disagree with his colleagues on weighty issues." During the mid-'00s, McNair "upset many fellow owners when he fought to change the league’s revenue-sharing rules, holding the belief that teams from larger markets that generated more revenue, such as Houston, should be rewarded appropriately" (WSJ.com, 11/23). In N.Y., Stevens & Chow noted McNair was "instrumental in bringing two Super Bowls to Houston" in '04 and '17 (N.Y. TIMES, 11/24).

MODEL FRANCHISE: In DC, Mark Maske noted the Texans "quickly gained a reputation as a model NFL franchise with an owner who wasn’t overly meddlesome and allowed executives and coaches to do their jobs." Many team employees said over the years that they "respected McNair as a caring and accommodating boss" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/23). In Houston, Jerome Solomon wrote the idea McNair valued money over winning is "ridiculous." The Texans are a "winning franchise financially because McNair had the foresight and business acumen to maximize a great opportunity" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/25). Also in Houston, John McClain wrote McNair "loved Texas, and he always wanted his team to be named the Texans." He was "so patriotic he wanted the team’s colors to be red, white and blue" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/25). The HOUSTON CHRONICLE's Dale Robertson wrote the "planets that aligned so perfectly for McNair in the late 1990s have stubbornly spited him since." Robertson: "He left us without seeing his, and our, Super Bowl-winning dream come to fruition" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/25). In Texas, Kevin Taylor wrote it is "hard to predict when and if the Texans ever make it to a Super Bowl." Taylor: "But if they do, I’ll always be thankful to Mr. McNair for saving Houston’s NFL dreams" (SWTIMES.com, 11/25).

NOT WITHOUT CONTROVERSY: NFL.com's Judy Battista noted McNair "stirred controversy" in recent years. He "contributed to a campaign to block a local ordinance designed to broaden anti-discrimination coverage to, among others, gay and transgender residents." McNair was then on the "receiving end of a stream of criticism and he withdrew the donation and backtracked." Then, last year, as owners "discussed the player protests during the national anthem, he was reported to have said, 'We can't have the inmates running the prison.'" The quote "became a national story and Texans players, among others, were furious." McNair said that the comment was "referring not to players, but to league officials not listening to owners." He said that the comment was "'very regretful,' although several months later he told the Wall Street Journal his main regret was apologizing because he did not think he had anything to apologize for" (NFL.com, 11/23). SI.com's Albert Breer wrote McNair on one hand was a "statesman within ownership ranks who was known for his pragmatism and level-headedness." On another, his legacy "will be forever marked" by his comments that "went viral." Later, McNair was "one of the few" who defended former Panthers Owner JERRY RICHARDSON when he was "embroiled in a controversy." That support "led to further criticism of McNair" (SI.com, 11/23).

BIG ON CHARITY WORK: ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop noted for more than 25 years, McNair chaired The Robert & Janice McNair Foundation, the Houston Texans Foundation and The Robert & Janice McNair Educational Foundation. He also founded the Texas Bowl, and the annual college game at NRG Stadium has "provided more than $700,000 in funds to the DePelchin Children's Center in Houston." Throughout his life, McNair and his foundations donated more than $500M. The McNair name is "prominent in Houston particularly because of the work he did in the community" (ESPN.com, 11/24). The HOUSTON CHRONICLE's Barron noted the McNair’s foundation in July donated $1M "toward a memorial honoring" nine members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., who were shot to death in '15 (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/24). The AP's Kristie Rieken noted McNair was one of the Univ. of South Carolina’s "biggest benefactors." He gave his alma mater $30M for a "scholarship program to attract talented out-of-state students." He also donated $8M for an "institute at USC to promote entrepreneurism." McNair also gave $5M to Columbia College where his wife attended college (AP, 11/23).

DIMINISHING GROUP: In N.Y., Ken Belson noted McNair becomes the fifth NFL owner this year to "die or to sell a team, an unusual amount of turnover in a league known for its stability." Other owners to pass away include the Seahawks' PAUL ALLEN, Saints' TOM BENSON and Chargers' ALEX SPANOS, while Richardson "sold his team." The five belonged to a "fast-diminishing group of owners who were self-made business owners and more often than not came from humble beginnings." Given how much it "costs to buy a team, it’s hard to imagine many car dealers or fast-food franchisees being able to purchase an NFL team in the future" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/25). NBCSPORTS.com's Peter King writes McNair was "part of a cadre of owners," led by late Steelers Owner DAN ROONEY, who were "exceedingly conscientious about the game." That group of owners was "league-first, more concerned with the NFL’s long-term future than short-term money ventures." Now it will be up to people like Cal McNair to "carry on the kind of tradition" ART ROONEY II is "trying to carry on after the loss of his father" (NBCSPORTS.com, 11/26).