O'Brien was among the members of the Texans' organization that attended the memorial service of George Floyd earlier this week. Floyd, whose service took place in Houston, was murdered late last month at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
"Yeah, I'll take a knee. I'm all for it," O'Brien told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. "The players have a right to protest, a right to be heard and a right to be who they are. They're not taking a knee because they're against our flag. They're taking a knee because they haven't been treated equally in this country for over 400 years."
O'Brien led an emotional discussion with his players regarding Floyd's death. The conversation was a positive experience for Texans safety Michael Thomas.
"It's so encouraging. The temperature has changed," Thomas told The Chronicle's Aaron Wilson. "The tone has changed. I wasn't expecting Bill O'Brien to be that thorough and spot-on. I don't know if I could have said it better. As a young African American man, it's very encouraging'
NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem began in 2016, when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the preseason in an effort to raise awareness regarding police brutality, specifically against African Americans. More players joined Kaepernick in taking a knee during the 2017 season. Kaepernick has not played since the 2017 season, although it appears that his three-year hiatus from the league could be coming to an end soon.
The NFL has made a concerted effort to join the conversation as it relates to racial inequality following Floyd's death. On Thursday, the league announced that it will commit $250 million over 10 years to a fund to "combat systemic racism and support the battle against injustices faced by African Americans."
In a statement issued last week, commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that the NFL should have listened to the league's players earlier with regard to social injustices. He also encouraged peaceful protests while condemning racism and "the systematic oppression of black people."
Many NFL teams, coaches and players have issued statements on their various social media accounts condemning racism while also supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Prior to NFL announcing its quarter-billion commitment, several NFL stars, including Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, created a video calling for the NFL to take action in the fight to end systemic racism.
"Enough is enough," Mahomes said earlier this month, according to the Kansas City Star's Sam McDowell. "We've got to do something about this. I'm blessed to have this platform. Why not use it? ... We (need) to come together as players and show that we believe black lives matter. ... We need to be the role models to go out there and take that step."