Texans owner Bob McNair died Friday in Houston, the team announced. He was 81.
“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 said in a statement.
The team did not disclose how McNair died. In August 2014, McNair publicly revealed that he had been dealing with skin cancer for nearly 20 years.
McNair has also fought squamous cell carcinoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia in the past.
McNair was the driving force for bringing an NFL team back to Houston after the Oilers had left in 1996. He also helped bring two Super Bowls to NRG Stadium: Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004) and Super Bowl LI (’17).
“Mr. McNair was an amazing man who made tremendous contributions to the NFL and the City of Houston,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “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 is survived by his wife Janice and their four children. Their son, Cal, is the Texans’ chief operating officer and is expected to continue to to have a prominent role running the team. When Bob McNair announced his medical conditions in 2014, he handed over more responsibility to Cal.
During the offseason, Cal was part of the four-person search committee, along with Bob, O’Brien and team president Jamey Rootes, to select Brian Gaine as the team’s new general manager.
McNair was often seen on the sidelines of Texans games in recent years, and he spoke to the media after almost every home game during the 2016 season.
For more than 25 years, McNair chaired The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, the Houston Texans Foundation and The Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation.
He also founded the AdvoCare Texas Bowl, which has provided more than $700,000 in funds to the DePelchin Children’s Center in Houston.
According to the Texans, throughout his life, McNair and his foundations donated more than $500 million. McNair also had been serving as the chairman of the NFL’s Finance Committee.
The Texans owner was the founder of Cogen Technologies, which became the largest privately owned cogeneration company in the world. It was sold to Enron in 1999 for $1.5 billion.
He came under fire in October 2017 after saying at an NFL owners meeting, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” in reference to NFL players’ demonstrations during the national anthem. McNair later apologized, saying his comments were about the “relationship between the league office and team owners” and not the players themselves.
Players on Friday took to social media to offer the McNair family their condolences, as did former President George H. W. Bush, who said “nobody cared — or helped people — more.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell also released a statement: “He cared deeply about the league and was generous with his time and willingness to share his insights as an exceptional businessman. But above all, Bob was a family man. I extend my heartfelt condolences to Janice, their family, the Texans, and the entire Houston community.”
The Texans’ first season was in 2002. Since then, Houston has won four division titles — in 2011, ’12, ’15, ’16 — and is 3-4 in the playoffs.
The McNair name is prominent in Houston especially because of the work he did in the community. McNair donated $100 million to help build the Baylor College of Medicine McNair Campus and Rice University’s school of management is named “Janice and Robert McNair Hall.” McNair also donated money in South Carolina. The University of South Carolina graduate pledged a $8 million donation to the university in 2015 to create the McNair Institute and donated $5 million to USC’s football operations center in 2017.
When asked about McNair at the NFL owners meetings in March, O’Brien talked about how important he has been to the Houston community.
“I think it’s very important for all of us to take a step back and think about what the McNairs have done for the city of Houston,” O’Brien said. “I mean, it’s incredible. Even before they bought the team, but especially after they bought the team, the things that they’ve done relative to all the different programs that they’ve helped in Houston, the YMCA, the food bank, Hurricane Harvey, what they did for Hurricane Harvey. I mean, there’s just so many different things [that] it’s hard to sit here and list them all, but I think Bob McNair and Janice McNair are great people. They’ve meant a lot to that city.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.