Commissioner Goodell: Urge Shahid Khan To Clean Up His Act

The NFL is famous for caring about the off-the-field behavior of its players. But what about the millionaires and billionaires who own the teams? Shouldn't they also be held to the highest standards when it comes to how they act away from the football field?

Take Shahid Khan, who bought the Jacksonville Jaguars in January for $760 million. Mr. Khan, who owns an auto parts manufacturer called Flex-N-Gate, was recently named one of the 500 richest Americans. How did he make his fortune? Largely, off making chrome plated bumpers that get their shine from a cancer-causing chemical called hexavalent chromium--the same chemical made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich.

Workers from his plants--both current and former--as well as residents who live near one of his closed plants in Highland Park, MI--are telling the real story behind Mr. Khan's fortune, including allegations that spills at the plant contaminated the surrounding neighborhood and jeopardized the health of workers and residents alike. After a March meeting in Highland Park, that drew over 200 people, Michigan regulators agreed to begin testing the plant and the neighborhood for exposure to toxic chemicals. At his currently operating plants in Indiana and Illinois, workers report they don't receive proper safety protection or training when working with dangerous chrome and other chemicals. They have filed state and federal health and safety complaints, including charges related to a March chemical accident that sent two workers to the hospital. In exchange for this hard and often dangerous work, many of Khan's workes still earn so little that they qualify for public assistance. 

In April, residents and workers took their case directly to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL has promised to respond. Tell the NFL that all workers--regardless of whether they are on a football field or in a factory--deserve a safe workplace!

Roger Goodell, Commissioner, National Football League
Paul Hicks, Executive Vice President, Communications and Government Affairs

As you know, there have been serious questions raised about the business practices of the newest NFL owner—Shahid Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars. A group of former workers at his Chrome Craft plant, joined by neighbors who live in the blocks adjacent to the now-shuttered factory, allege decades of worker safety and environmental violations at the plant. Michigan regulators have found enough evidence in their testimony to launch investigations into whether the soil at the plant and in the surrounding neighborhood has been contaminated with hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing chemical made famous by the movie Erin Brockovich. They are also looking into the impact the plant has had on human health in the area.

But, according to workers at Mr. Khan’s currently operating plants, the problems at Flex-N-Gate are not just in the past. Workers at plants in Urbana, Illinois, and Veedersburg, Indiana—which also make chrome bumpers using the same dangerous chemicals—fear that the problems at Chrome Craft are a glimpse into their own futures. They have filed a range of health and safety charges that allege they, too, have been exposed to dangerous chemicals, including hexavalent chromium. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, workers are also detailing difficult working conditions. At the press conference in front of the NFL draft store on April 26, a worker from Grand Rapids detailed how workers at his plant start work at as little as $9.27 an hour. Even working full-time, that still leaves workers who have to raise a family eligible for public assistance.

As Commissioner Goodell has stated, the NFL is viewed as a leader. The League has gone to great lengths to ensure that its players’ off-the-field conduct sets a positive example, and that the League takes steps to improve player safety at all levels of the game. But we believe that all workers—whether they are on the football field or in a factory—deserve a safe place to work, and that the off-the-field conduct of the NFL’s owners is every bit as important as that of your players. We urge you to fully investigate the allegations against Mr. Khan, and ensure that Flex-N-Gate embraces a code of conduct that eliminates any risk that its actions will have a detrimental effect on the League.
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