If you were putting together a list of the most important sports figures in the history of the city of Houston, if Bob McNair's name isn't at the top of that list, you certainly don't go more than a couple of names before you get to him. When you consider the ripple effect of NFL football on both the economy and the psyche of a city, there's certainly been no more impactful Houstonian in sports than McNair, who brought NFL football back to this city in 2002 after winning the rights to an NFL expansion franchise in late 1999.
On Friday afternoon, McNair passed away at the age of 81 after multiple bouts with cancer. To the average Houstonian, he was known as the owner of the Houston Texans, and the man who returned NFL football to this city after Bud Adams moved the Oilers to Nashville. However, McNair was so much more to so many more people, having donated a reported $500 million to various charitable causes.
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 founded the AdvoCare Texas Bowl, which has showcased Houston to the college football world, and more importantly, provided more than $700,000 in charitable funds to the DePelchin Children's Center. McNair was also the key figure in bringing two Super Bowls to Houston, the first in 2004, and then, against great odds, in 2017. The economic impact to this city of those two Super Bowls is measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
When you consider the money-generating power of the NFL platform, whether it's a Super Bowl in this city, every Sunday during the NFL season, or the various charities that are in some way affiliated with the Texans, McNair's vision and eternal optimism is at the root of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. Personally, I know that without NFL football, there is no way that this is more than a one sports radio station town. (NOTE: Here in Houston, we have five.) Many of us in my line of work owe our careers to McNair's dogged relentlessness in bringing the NFL back to Houston.
Before football, McNair made the fortune that enabled him to pay the NFL's $700 million expansion fee by founding Cogen Technologies, a company that became the world's largest independent cogeneration company. McNair sold the company to Enron for $1.5 billion in 1999. Within football, McNair was very active in advancing the game, most notably as the chairman of the NFL's finance committee. In recent years, McNair had been handing over more Texans responsibility to his son, Cal, who is the team's chief operating officer.
McNair's players and coaches reacted, both in practice and on social media, to the passing of the team's owner:
A moment of silence for Mr. McNair. pic.twitter.com/2FvTm4OMP5— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) November 24, 2018
Rest In Peace Mr. McNair. Thank you for giving myself and so many others an opportunity here in Houston. My thoughts are with Janice, Cal and the entire McNair family.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) November 24, 2018
My prayers are with the McNair family right now! Thank you for the opportunity to represent your team.— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) November 24, 2018
Can’t thank you enough for giving a kid from Miami a chance to live out his dream of playing in the NFL. My deepest condolences goes out to the McNair family. #RIP #houstontexans https://t.co/ZZim0X5oRd— andre johnson (@johnson80) November 24, 2018
I always respected how you ran a first class organization, admired how much you gave back to the community, and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity you gave me.— Wade Smith (@Smitty74allday) November 24, 2018
Rest Easy Mr. McNair. pic.twitter.com/VBoCknchME
Rest In Peace Mr. McNair. Thank you for the opportunity you have given me and allowing me to be a part of the Texans family. My family and I will be forever grateful.— Tom Savage (@TomSavage03) November 24, 2018
This man changed the lives of so many people in this great city and around the country. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to fulfill my dreams and drafting me to play for this distinguished organization. Thank you Mr. McNair. Rest In Peace and God be with the McNair family. https://t.co/nKseQW61KI— Christian Covington (@thetangibleC4) November 24, 2018
May my prayers be with the Mcnair family. I will forever be grateful to Mr. Bob Mcnair for giving me a chance to live my life long dream. A true legend— Dj Reader (@Djread98) November 24, 2018
R.I.P Mr.Mcnair I wanna thank you and your family for giving me an opportunity to be apart of that great organization. I’ll never forget the 2nd time I came back to Houston and your smile was as big as mine! Thanks for everything! Major love and prayers to the Mcnair family ???????? pic.twitter.com/YsKb3dKU99— Charles James II (@CJDeuce_) November 24, 2018
Gave me a shot and I ran with it.— Chester M. Pitts, II (@ChesterPitts) November 24, 2018
Rest in Peace Mr. McNair pic.twitter.com/V7zP8YeSrk
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.