Bob McNair, the Man Who Brought Football Back to Houston, Passes Away at 81

Robert C. McNair, the Founder of the Houston Texans, Chief Executive Officer and Senior Chairman passed away peacefully at the age of 81 on November 23, 2018. McNair, who in recent years went through radiation, chemotherapy and other experimental treatments, had been diagnosed with skin cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukemia nearly a decade ago.

The Texans organization released a statement via Twitter saying, “It is with deep sadness that we announce Houston Texans Founder, Senior Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and philanthropist, Robert C. McNair passed away peacefully in Houston today with his loving wife, Janice, and his family by his side.”

McNair was known as the man who brought professional football back to the city of Houston Texas. After a 29-0 vote amongst League owners, McNair’s idea was approved. He was then awarded the 32nd National Football League franchise on October 5, 1999.

Football returned to the city of Houston in 2002 and under the leadership of McNair the city has hosted two Super Bowls (Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and Super Bowl LI in 2017.)

Head Coach of the Houston Texans, Bill O’Brien, gave a statement saying, “Mr. McNair was an amazing man who made tremendous contributions to the NFL and the City of Houston. He was a very caring, thoughtful and passionate individual. As much as he cared about winning, I think the thing I will remember most about Mr. McNair is the way he cared about the players. I know how much giving back meant to him and his loyalty and generosity to the City of Houston and our community will never be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers are with Janice and the McNair Family.”
McNair’s love of community reached outside of football to a number of organizations. He and his foundations have given over $500 million dollars to organizations that range from science to religion. A McNair Campus or Hall isn’t hard to find around the city of Houston.

McNair was a family man, a widely successful businessman, a philanthropist, and saw to it that his franchise afforded opportunities to qualified and talented black individuals. Not because of their ethnicity but because they were the best candidate for the job.

Former general manager for the Texans, Rick Smith, explained, “His influence on my life and on my family’s life was so far beyond the NFL. The lessons that I learned on business, on family and on life will be with me forever. He was a special man, a person of great integrity and faith.”

In addition to Smith, McNair worked with Kevin Cooper who functioned as the Texans’ Senior Director of Media Relations after Tony Wyllie, former VP of Communications left. Currently, the Texans Media team holds the league record for the NFL’s Pete Rozelle Award for their outstanding media relations.

It is no secret that McNair met a fair amount of controversy during his tenure in the league, including, but not limited to, his statement regarding the national anthem protests, his issues with Duane Brown, his support of his friend and former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, and his dislike of the Obama presidency as he remained a staunch supporter of the Republican party. There is no telling how much of the rise in misguided controversies that happened in the last decade was directly tied to his age/failing health but it certainly has added serious blemishes to his legacy. Regardless of the reason, everyone remains accountable for the things they do and say.

The truth is, of course, blemishes are only spots on the skin of a legacy and cannot possibly tell the whole story. In the end, integral members of the Texans operation expressed only gratitude.

Hopkins, who made clear that he was offended by McNair’s comments in 2017 and openly sat out of practice in protest, said after Monday night’s win, “That was very special. Cal and their family deserve it. [The game ball.] Everything they’ve done for this city. Everything they’ve been through…Bob was at practice. Bob was active. Cal is the same way. You got to love those guys.”

“They brought football back to Houston,” Watson expressed. “So grateful for this organization, the city of Houston. When I got drafted, they connected with my mom, made my mom feel at home.”
Watson went on to say that the McNairs looked out for his mother, Deann, who has battled tongue cancer.

The Texans held a pregame tribute to the late McNair that included the Texas A&M cadet choir singing a rendition of “Amazing Grace” while a video tribute played. Shots of fans holding up signs thanking McNair could be seen on the jumbotron as the cell phone lights illuminated a darkened stadium.

The turf was sprayed with a football that had McNair’s initials “RCM” inside. That same image was mirrored on a decal worn on the helmets of the players.

There will be a Celebration of Life program held for Robert C. McNair on Friday, December 7, 2018 at NRG Stadium. This event will be open to the public. (Details to come)

The family has requested that memorial donations be made to the Houston Texans Foundation or a charity of the donor’s choice in lieu of flowers. Houston Texans Foundation donations can be made at houstontexans.com/foundationdonation.