JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Within hours of Tuesday's announcement that Wayne Weaver intended to sell the Jacksonville Jaguars to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan, comments started appearing on Internet posts -- including comments on News4Jax stories -- about Khan's heritage.
Born in Pakistan, Khan came to the United States at age 16 to attend the University of Illinois. Ten years after he started working at Flex-N-Gate Corp. -- an auto parts manufacturer in Urbana, Ill. -- he purchased the company in 1980. The company is now a major supplier of bumper systems for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles that employs more than 9,500 people and last year had revenues of $2.57 billion.
Bonnie Upright said she has been busy removing friends from her Facebook page who have posted insensitive pictures about Khan or his ownership of the Jaguars.
"It's sad to see. I started to see comments among my Facebook friends and among folks I follow on Twitter," Upright said. "There is no room in my life for people who believe those things, even as a joke."
In addition to tasteless photos, there's no shortage of insensitive comments about Kahn. Among the most common threads: because NFL is an American sport, it should be owned by an American.
Kahn, 61, has lived in the United States for 47 years and is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
"Khan is a great American success story and he will be an outstanding owner for this franchise and for this community," Weaver said at Tuesday's news conference.
Parvez Ahmed knows what it's like to be attacked for his heritage. After the University of North Florida professor was appointed to serve on Jacksonville's Human Rights Commission, he was criticized for his Islamic beliefs and background.
"It is disheartening because it's a repeat of the same horror story I went though," Ahmed said. "You measure progress in small steps, and we are taking small steps forward."
But as disheartening the pictures and posts are to Ahmed, he believes the city is showing growth on religious and racial issues.
"It is getting a lot of attention, but we are making progress. We elected our first African-American mayor. We have a first immigrant, a Pakistani-born citizen who is going to buy our prized franchise. I think we are making progress," Ahmed said. "I think the more people come to realize that these are going to happen more and more often as the country become more diverse and the city comes more diverse. The city is going to get used to it."
Some of the attacks on Khan's foreign birth were made as comments on News4Jax.com. Due to the number of inappropriate remarks, a decision was made not to invite comments on follow-up stories.
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