Houston Texans Owner Backtracks on Donation to Anti-LGBT Campaign

Bob McNair
Bob McNair

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, under fire for his $10,000 donation to the campaign to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, now wants his money back.

ThinkProgress obtained a statement from the NFL team owner Friday in which he said he does not approve of any type of discrimination, nor of the language used by those seeking to rescind the LGBT-inclusive law. He said he agreed to donate to the repeal campaign because he believed “a thoughtful rewrite would provide a better ordinance” and “would be less divisive of our city.”

“It was on these principles that I made my personal contribution to Campaign for Houston,” he wrote, referring to the anti-LGBT group that has made transphobic misinformation a hallmark of its campaign. “To my great dismay, Campaign for Houston made numerous unauthorized statements about my opposition to HERO in print, broadcast and social media — including attributing certain statements of belief to me. Their actions and statements were never discussed with nor approved by me. Therefore I instructed the Campaign to return my contribution.”

He added, “I do not believe in or tolerate personal or professional discrimination of any kind. I also believe that we Houstonians should have an ordinance that unites our community and provides a bold statement of non-discrimination. I encourage all Houstonians to vote on November 3.”

He closed with a quote from Robert F. Kennedy:

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work together to change a small portion of events, and in the total of those acts will be written the history of our generation.”

ThinkProgress had sought comment from McNair regarding the tactics of the ordinance’s opponents, which have centered on the provably false claim that women and children would be in danger if transgender people were allowed to use the restrooms and locker rooms that comport with their gender identity.

Former NFL player Chris Kluwe derided McNair’s donation as “douchetastic buffoonery” in an open letter this week, and Michael Sam, the first openly gay man to be drafted by an NFL team, has joined in the campaign to keep the ordinance on the books. The Houston City Council passed it last year, but opponents sought a referendum on it, and the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the city must either rescind the law or put it to a public vote. It is on the November 3 ballot as Proposition 1.

Richard Carlbom, a veteran pro-equality organizer who’s directing the Houston Unites campaign in support of the ordinance, praised McNair’s action in a statement to ThinkProgress. “Like Bob McNair, many Houstonians are taking a step back and realizing the opposition’s ads on the Equal Rights Ordinance are intended to raise anxiety with outright distortions and quite frankly lies,” he said. “When you take a second look, the Equal Rights Ordinance protects all Houstonians from discrimination and makes Houston a place everyone can be proud to call home. And why the majority of small and large businesses in Houston support Proposition 1.”

Jared Woodfill, directing the campaign to repeal the ordinance, told the Houston Chronicle that he thought McNair was reacting to backlash he’d received. “Any time you’re high-profile and you take a stance on this issue you get attacked,” Woodfill said. “But we appreciate the original donation and we believe, from his statement, that his opinion on the ordinance has not changed.”

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