RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Paul Allen owning the team.
Man, is “celebrating” the operative and appropriate word right about now.
The Houston Texans, the Seahawks’ opponent Sunday at CenturyLink Field, plus players from Philadelphia to Seattle were angered, and in many ways felt justified, by comments published Friday by ESPN The Magazine from Texans owner Bob McNair.
ESPN quoted McNair saying during last week’s league owners meeting, during discussions about ongoing player protests for social and racial equality during the national anthem before games: “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
McNair’s quote appeared within a lengthy story detailing what was said and done during meetings in New York that included 13 players and 11 team owners, plus NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and players’ union chief DeMaurice Smith.
Richard Sherman says for fans, for this weekend, it’s good that all NFL contracts are not guaranteed. He says if they were, there likely would not be a Seahawks game this weekend.
“Oh, yeah, those guys would probably sit this game out,” Seattle’s star cornerback said following practice Friday.
Houston coach Bill O’Brien said he was “100 percent” with his players — and that the team would fly to Seattle on Saturday as scheduled and play in the game Sunday.
“We will be there when the ball is kicked off in Seattle,” O’Brien said.
McNair issued a statement Friday apologizing for the comment. He stated he was using a figure of speech and did not intend for his words “inmate” and “prison” to be taken literally.
“I appreciate when people like that show who they really are,” Sherman said on his way out of the Seahawks’ locker room. “More people in the world have to be that kind and that open about how they really feel so you can identify them — and make sure you stay away from those kind of people, and keep those people out of power.
“But, you know, of course they have to sit back and apologize, because it’s politically correct to apologize. But eventually you have take people for their word and for who they are.
“For most players, even when once we apologize they still take what we said and judge us by it. So you should do the same with him.”
Seahawks All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner empathized with Texans players — and also denounced McNair and those who think like his comments suggest he does.
“It sucks for them. It sucks they have to deal with that,” Wagner said of the Texans, some of whom he said he counts as friends.
“I wouldn’t want to play for a guy like that.
“Like I said, people saying how they really feel. It’s not a surprise. They’ve been like that. They are just finally starting to say it.”
Wagner was asked if he was talking about NFL owners in general.
“I’m talking about people who feel that way,” he said.
Sherman said he doesn’t see this as a case of one step forward and two steps back with the league in advancing players’ causes of social and racial equality.
“No, I feel like it’s been forward progress, because even him exposing himself is progress. Because a lot of people who are racists, and don’t think that equality is right and don’t treat people equally, are incredibly afraid to say it in public. They are incredibly afraid to say that in public because they are afraid of judgment — which should tell you something, which should tell you something about yourself and your ideas.
“But I think the more brave people got — you know, (President) Trump has exposed a lot of people. A lot of people are feeling…emboldened, they are feeling liberated, of sort, to say what they want to say, to really express their feelings. And I think once we get the honest truth out of everybody then the world will be a better place, because we want have to hide. People won’t be hiding behind their words. Then they will be ostracized from society. Then they will be looked at as the monsters that they are.
“It will be awesome.”
While McNair inserts his expensive shoe in his mouth, while Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threatens to bench any player who protests by sitting or kneeling during the national anthem recently, Allen lets the Seahawks be themselves. Whoever and whatever that is. And it’s plenty.
The co-founder of Microsoft also owns the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. He hasn’t interfered or made any statements while Michael Bennett has been sitting during anthems before games since mid-August, nor while the Seahawks’ entire defensive line has joined him recently.
Everyone keeps playing, and winning. The Seahawks have been to five consecutive postseasons. They’ve been to two of the last four Super Bowls, winning the franchise’s first NFL championship following the 2013 season.
“He sweeps the path clear,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday of Allen.
Now, it’s true Allen not only doesn’t have the inclination he doesn’t have the time to meddle in the affairs of players or even coaches. Nor the interest. His are elsewhere, all over the world. He’s out donating millions and time to ocean conservation and research, to brain institutes to find cures for Alzheimer’s and dementia, to combat Ebola, to Washington State University for the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, and recently $50 million to the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. That’s just to name a few.
While O’Brien was trying to contain the mess of angry players on the eve of a game, Carroll was asked how appreciative he is of having Allen as his owner.
“In every way,” Carroll said.
“How he allows us to work. How he allows us to do our business. It’s as first-class as you can get. He sweeps the path clear. We have no excuses, nothing, that we could ever state that’s in our way. His support with John (Schneider, the general manager), myself, and with (team president) Peter McLoughlin, he’s just been stellar. And our fans are lucky to have his support the way he is.
“He cares so much about the area, it’s always what’s best for the area and our fans first; that’s how he thinks and operates. We just follow along, and it just fits beautifully. We’re very fortunate and he has a very good sense for what’s going on, and he always wants to know where he can help and support in every way too.
“To me, he’s awesome.”
Britt readies to play
Looks and sounds as if center Justin Britt will start Sunday. Britt practiced Friday for the first time this week, albeit in a limited fashion.
“He did practice today. He made it through the practice,” Carroll said. “We’re listing him as questionable, just to see what happens tomorrow. But he did well (Friday). We’ll see what that means.”
Seattle’s best lineman sprained his ankle in the first quarter of last weekend’s game at the New York Giants. He missed six plays — rookie second-round pick Ethan Pocic replaced him — then returned to finish the game.
Wednesday, line coach Tom Cable was asked if Britt might play Sunday.
“It looks like it,” Cable said.
If Britt starts again, as expected, Carroll said Pocic will start for the second consecutive game at left guard. Pocic and Mark Glowinski alternated time last weekend.
The Seahawks list cornerback Jeremy Lane as questionable to play. Lane “jammed the end of his two fingers pretty violently” Wednesday while coming back to practice for the first time in weeks. He had strained his groin. … DE Marcus Smith is questionable with an ankle injury. … RB C.J. Prosise is doubtful after reinjuring his ankle after just plays against the Giants.