Bill O'Brien to the African-American community "We stand by you"

Patrick D. Starr

It has been a learning process for Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien, and with the recent killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he knows he has to be part of the change. 

Floyd, a native of Houston, Texas, was killed by former police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest. A cell phone video of the killing sparked national outrage and a deeper issue of police brutality aimed towards black Americans.

Canceling the Texans virtual meeting on June 9th so the team's players, coaches, and staff could attend Floyd's funeral, which is being held in Houston. O'Brien is planning to pay his respects at the funeral for Floyd.  

"We stand by you, and we are ready to do our part in this community," O'Brien stated to the African-American community in a video-conference call that lasted nearly 12-minutes. 

O'Brien admitted he has learned from African-American coaches and players he has coached with the Texans. Talking with assistant head coach Romeo Crennel, quarterback Deshaun Watson, and wide receiver Kenny Stills. 

O'Brien says he has learned what it was like for Crennel as a young coach coming up in the south during the 1960s and 1970s. Also, why Watson has Gainesville, Georgia's area code of "815" tattooed on his arm and why Stills kneels during the national anthem before kickoffs of NFL games. 

"I think everyone has to admit their mistakes along the way," O'Brien said of the racial issues in the country. "We all have to stand up and understand that what is going on in this country right now is wrong. It's wrong. Relative to many, many things."

"It's 400 years ago [when Africans were brought to the colonies as slaves]. It's segregation. It's police brutality. It's not equal opportunities. It's so much deeper. ... And we have to stand with the black community, and we have to heed the call to action and challenge each other to live out the change that we want to see. I'm emotional. ... I'm sad. I'm frustrated because I'm questioning, 'What can I do?' I've got to do more."

Having extended conversations with Miami Dolphins head coach and close friend Brian Flores, O'Brien has asked questions and listened to what Flores has had to say on the recent issues in the country. 

"Listening to their life stories, and many others, like I said, has helped me cement my belief that we all must do what it takes to improve our country, especially as it relates to race relations," O'Brien said. "It is horrendous what we are seeing and what we saw eight or nine days ago. What is great about our country right now is to me, the protests. The peaceful protests. The peaceful protests that we see on TV every night [have] just been an amazing example of what our country is all about."

This is not the first time that O'Brien has had to deal with racial divides. The first time came in 2017 when former, now deceased, team owner Bob McNair made the infamous, "We can't have the inmates running the prison" comment regarding Colin Kapernick taking a knee before games to protest police brutality.

O'Brien made it clear that he had his team's back in 2017 after those comments and he will do everything in his power to have their backs during these times in 2020. 

"I've told my players since 2014 that I have their back," O'Brien said. "I told my players in 2017, 'I have your back.' I will continue to tell them that I have their back. If they need time to themselves, they can have time to themselves. If they need resources from us to try to begin to heal, we've got to help them. We've got a lot of resources here to do that. They will get it."

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