Jacksonville has a new NFL owner and a new head coach. But now it also has new PR problems.
Not only was the hire of coach Mike Mularkey panned by critics Wednesday, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan is in serious damage control mode after his comments about what makes a fan of his team.
Khan explained just what it takes to be a Jaguars fan, in his opinion: "I think I can clarify at this point for me a fan is somebody who is a season ticket holder fan for the Jaguars," said the new owner. "We want to hear from people, we want a huge amount of constructive feedback. We need input, but we need that from fans who are season ticket holders."
So the implication is if you're down on your luck and can't afford season tickets in a state hit hard by the recession, you're not a true fan.
Considering the Jaguars finished 24th in attendance in 2011, that's a pretty small number of supporters.
Khan wouldn't speak on camera to First Coast News about the backlash, but his representative spinned the dis as an "off-the-cuff comment."
The Jags owner did pop on local radio in Jacksonville to clarify his position. In a prepared statement sent to First Coast News from Jim Woodcock, Khan's representative, the owner said: "All it takes to be a Jaguars fan is to love the Jaguars. And if you love the Jaguars, you're the most important person to me and the entire organization."
Khan also told Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union he wasn't worried about negative feedback on social media for his decision to hire a retread coach who failed in Buffalo. In fact, he compared it to his own situation.
"When Wayne (Weaver) announced he was selling, probably more than half [the fans on social media] said, 'Oh my God, this is disaster. The team’s going to move. Who’s this guy coming in? Are we going to have beer in the stadium? Oh gee, it’s a Muslim,'" Khan told Ganguli. "The social media was abuzz with that. That's great if half thought it was good for the team being sold. We only have to work on the other half. This (coaching hire) is just like that."
Born in Pakistan, Khan made his fortune in the automobile parts industry in Chicago. He's the first person from an ethnic minority to have ownership of an NFL franchise. He paid $760 million to purchase the Jags.
Jacksonville finished the 2011 season with a 5-11 record and the NFL's 29th best scoring offense at 15.2 points per game.
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