The CEO of the Houston Texans has issued a public apology after calling COVID-19 “the China virus.” Cal McNair used the phrase—widely considered an anti-Asian slur—when he spoke at a charity golf event in May sponsored by the NFL team. “I’m sorry that we couldn’t get together last year, because of the China virus,” he said. Bally Sports reported at the time that McNair and his wife had both laughed at the remark, while others had “gasped.” Use of the terms “China virus” or “Wuhan flu,” most notably by then-President Donald Trump, have been blamed for a sharp increase in attacks on Asian Americans, which, according to the FBI, rose to 279 in 2020 from 161 the year before.
McNair, 60, took over the Texans in 2018 from his father, Bob, who had provoked anger in 2017 when he criticized player protests against racism by saying: “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” In a statement reported by The Washington Post, Cal McNair said he regretted his “inappropriate choice of words.” He added: “I know how important it is to choose my words carefully. I would never want to offend anyone.”