McNair was awarded the league's 32nd franchise in 1999, with the Houston Texans playing their first game in 2002.
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair died Friday at age 81, the team announced.
"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," the team wrote.
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. pic.twitter.com/7J9PWoxKZv— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) November 23, 2018
McNair had been a resident of Houston since 1960. Committed to bringing back an NFL franchise to his city after the Oilers left for Tennessee following the 1996 season, McNair formed Houston NFL Holdings in 1998 and was awarded the league's 32nd franchise in 1999. The Texans played their first game on Sept. 8, 2002 against the Dallas Cowboys.
"We lost an incredible man today," Texans president Jamey Rootes said in a statement. "Bob McNair had a positive impact on so many people's lives. He was a role model as a father, husband, philanthropist and businessman. He was the reason professional football returned to Houston and he stewarded our franchise with a laser focus on honesty, integrity and high character. He was an amazing Champion for Houston and worked hard to make sure our city received maximum value from the presence of the Texans and the NFL.
"Today is a difficult day for the Houston Texans family and the entire NFL," general manager Brian Gaine said. "Mr. McNair did so much for our organization and the City of Houston throughout his time as the owner of the Texans. He cared deeply about the players, coaches and staff, and he gave all of us unwavering support to be successful."
Gaine and head coach Bill O'Brien both praised McNair's impact on the city of Houston, his commitment to the team, his character and offered thoughts and prayers to McNair's wife, Janice, and the rest of their family.