Long before Shad Khan was the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, he was a 16-year-old immigrant from Pakistan who washed dishes for $1.20 an hour.
Because he understands what it’s like to come to the United States as an outsider, where work and community can be challenging to find, Khan decided to donate 1,000 Jaguars v. Bills playoff tickets to refugees and immigrants displaced by Hurricane Maria so they could kick back and relax on Sunday afternoon.
“The Jaguars’ first home playoff appearance in very long time is an event that should be shared with as many people as possible, across all spectrums, who call Jacksonville their home,” Khan said via the team’s official website. “Whether it’s a home game in August or January, it’s important for the Jaguars to consistently be good citizens and do the right thing for our community. Hopefully, the experience on Sunday will give our guests a well-deserved break from what can be severe challenges in their daily lives, and if we can give them a victory on the field, it will make for a perfect day.”
Not only did Khan donate tickets, but he provided transportation to and from the game, food vouchers and merchandise.
Two people who attended the Jaguars’ win was 29-year-old Ayad Shamsaldin and his wife, Rana. According to Yahoo Sports, Shamsaldin was born in Iraq but became an interpreter for the U.S. Army. He put his own life on the line in order to help the U.S. and make his own country safer.
“I kept hearing and seeing there were a lot of incidents when things went very badly because there was a language barrier,” Shamsaldin said. “That shouldn’t have happened. We could use our skill to prevent that from happening.”
With a high likelihood of being killed himself, he secured a special immigrant visa (SIV) in 2013 and moved to the U.S., where he met Rana, a refugee from Afghanistan.
Today, Shamsaldin works in the operations department at Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida, which helps hundreds of refugees find jobs and housing every year.
Sitting in seats at EverBank Field on Sunday, cheering on the home team, was something the couple never thought they would have the opportunity to do. They weren’t just attending a game. They were fully immersed and welcomed in their community.