News / Arts & Entertainment

Pakistani Immigrant Makes Mark in US National Football League

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (L) speaks with Shahid Kahn, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, before a game between the two teams in Jacksonville, Florida, Dec. 23, 2012.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (L) speaks with Shahid Kahn, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, before a game between the two teams in Jacksonville, Florida, Dec. 23, 2012.
Mike Richman
Nearly every team in the U.S. National Football League is owned by someone born in the United States. Now a man from Pakistan is part of the league's ownership club.  In fact, he's the only ethnic minority member ever to own an NFL franchise.

That man is Shahid Kahn, one of the most recognizable names in the southern U.S. city of Jacksonville, Florida. The 63-year-old American businessman owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, an American-style pro football team.

Like the other owners, Khan is wealthy. But his life story is vastly different.  He grew up in Pakistan, where cricket is the national sport, before immigrating to the U.S. and falling in love with American-style football.

He told VOA that his experience while owning the Jaguars for a year-and-a-half has been “fabulous.”

“It’s a great league; it’s a league in its own league," he said. "I had met several of the owners obviously before, I’ve gotten to know obviously the rest.  The league, the leadership, obviously with Roger [Goodell], the chairman and the rest of his staff.  It’s a fabulous organization.”

Meager wages

Kahn is from Lahore, Pakistan. Seeking an “education, fame and fortune,” he came to the U.S. in 1967 at age 16. He had $500 when he arrived and began washing dishes for $1.20 an hour.

Khan settled in the midwestern state of Illinois. While studying for an engineering degree at the University of Illinois, he worked at Flex-N-Gate, which makes auto parts.  He bought Flex-N-Gate in 1980 and built it into a company with more than $3 billion in revenue and 50 plants in the U.S. and abroad.

Khan said he was living the American dream when making $1.20 an hour.

“Working for $1.20 was absolutely a very liberating experience for me, and I think what was wonderful was that it happened literally a day after I got here," he said.  "The most powerful thing was, `Hey, I’m empowered, and I control my destiny, and I can be who I want to be,’ and certainly the life I knew before that in Pakistan and really the rest of the world, frankly, you didn’t have that opportunity that you could go out, get a job.”

Khan’s interest in American-style football began when he attended the University of Illinois, which has a big football program.

“I just loved it because it is simple in a way, and then it is so complex," Khan said.  "The minute you think you’ve understood something, you haven’t. I don’t have the athletic makeup to play the game, so I watched it being a huge fan, and then as time went on I thought maybe there’d be a day I could own a team.”

That day would come.  After failing in an effort to buy the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, he bought the Jaguars for a reported $760 million in late 2011.

A racist reaction

Some Jaguars fans resented Khan, a Muslim, becoming the team’s owner.  In online comments, he was called a “sand monkey” and a “terrorist from Pakistan.” The insults, Khan said, were rooted in people becoming scared and not knowing who he is.

“I think some of what happened in Jacksonville was the team was very special to them, and they wake up one morning, and it's sold, and a number of other things happened at the time," he said. "They got a new owner, somebody who doesn’t look familiar to them. So it would not be the finest moment they had… but it’s something I can overcome. I’ve done that all my life.”

Khan has since worked to ingratiate himself to the fans. He greets them, for instance, on game day outside the Jaguars’ home stadium. Marc Lepecheur, co-founder of a Jaguars fan club, is one who appreciates his friendliness.

“I think it’s awesome," Lepecheur said. "I think he’s taking the initiative to show that he really wants to be involved in the Jacksonville community. He really has just gone out of his way to make us feel like he’s involved and wants to be involved, and it really makes us happy.”

Mohammad Faisal, owner of a Jacksonville restaurant that serves Pakistani-style food, said Khan has visited his establishment. Faisal, who also is from Lahore, is proud that Khan owns the city’s football team.

“We’re happy to hear that thing, somebody doing good in the United States and doing good especially for the country of Pakistan, doing good things," Faisal said.  "That’s good.  This country of opportunity, America.  You work hard here and you can get all the opportunity you can.”

Khan, who also owns the British premier football (soccer) team Fulham FC, holds the same view.

“I think this is the finest country on planet Earth, period," Khan said. "And what you’re going to be able to accomplish with your life on this planet, your best chance, your best opportunity is right here in the U.S.”

The Pakistani immigrant personifies that kind of success.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”