Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan donated $1 million to President Trump’s inauguration in 2016, along with a handful of other NFL owners. But he also famously stood and linked arms with his players during the national anthem before a game in September 2017, amid the height of the player protests that Colin Kaepernick started and Trump so vehemently and vocally criticized. Khan, a Muslim who immigrated to America from Pakistan, also publicly opposed Trump’s travel ban on five majority-Muslim countries.
Those actions may appear to contradict each other. And now, two years after the NFL protests faded and TV ratings for the league have rebounded, Khan says he is still a fan of some of Trump’s policies.
“I had been a big fan of the economic policies,” Khan said on stage at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit on Thursday. “That happened, and I think we are benefiting from it.”
On the other hand, Khan added, “I think it’s very clear on social issues—immigration, religion, what have you—I think we need to have a different viewpoint.”
Khan is hardly the only business leader to say that he likes Trump’s economic policies, but not his social approach. Khan is CEO of car bumper maker Flex-N-Gate, which supplies parts to the biggest automakers in the world and had $7.5 billion in revenue in 2018. “I think with manufacturing—I’ve been on a factory floor 50 years, and this is about the best it’s ever been,” Khan said. “The factories are going through a huge revolution. New technology, more brains, less brawn.”
Looking back at the NFL protests and their lasting impact, Khan says, “Those were human causes that [the players] brought a lot of attention to. And since then, the league has done a lot. We’d need a special program with you to go through all the stuff. And the players have done a lot. That was the time for talk and symbolism; since then, it’s been time for action. And there’s been a lot of action. Local communities, prison reform, a lot of those things that impact not only minorities but other people.”
Khan also declares “the best days of the NFL are ahead of it, especially now with international availability.”
And as the NFL seeks to grow its fanbase internationally, Khan is well positioned to comment on the NBA’s current political crisis in China, where its business partners are angry over a tweet from the Houston Rockets G.M. supporting Hong Kong protesters.
“I think players, and every human being, has a right to speak what their opinion is. There’s no issue as far as that goes, whether it’s NFL or anybody else,” Khan said. “We are American citizens, we have a social civic responsibility to be active in causes we believe in. But do we have that same responsibility to opine on sovereign matters in other countries? That’s the critical issue.”
When it comes to doing business in China, Khan says, “You have to respect the norms.”
Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.