Jaguars owner Shad Khan may be a multibillionaire asking the city for millions of dollars in handouts, but gosh-darn it, he has feelings too!
Amidst the controversy over the Jags’ proposed Lot J development, as well as the jubilation over the team clinching the #1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft (better known as “The Trevor Lawrence Draft”), that is apparently the key point that Mayor Lenny Curry would like to emphasize right now.
Curry made an appearance on 1010XL’s “The Sports Den” on Sunday night following the team’s Lawrence-clinching loss to the Chicago Bears. And while a good deal of the conversation focused on the prospect of Lawrence’s arrival in the Bold City, it also veered into the topic of Lot J.
“There are forces against Lot J,” said Curry, adding that while some of those “forces” do come in the form of legitimate questions, he views most of the criticism levied at the project as political in nature.
“There are newspaper columns today attacking Shad Khan personally, calling him a tiny billionaire,” he explained. “In our newspaper. That’s embarrassing.”
Curry is, of course, referring to The Florida Times-Union’s coverage of the Lot J debacle. Specifically, it seems he took issue with a piece by locally-renowned columnist Nate Monroe, in which Khan is roundly criticized for his perceived shortcomings as a local developer. Monroe does indeed refer to Khan as a “tiny billionaire” in his column – however, he also unloads a series of convincing, perfectly valid indictments on Khan and his methods, none of which were addressed in any meaningful way by Curry.
Curry went on to add that “it’s not our business decision” to say if the team is financially viable or not, and that “[it] doesn’t matter” if someone was to disagree with the team’s own internal assessment, as Khan and his team’s opinion is the only relevant one.
“A city cannot continue to pound on an organization and treat them like crap,” Curry said, insisting that his own constituents need to “freakin’ grow up.”
Apparently in Curry’s mind, and perhaps even in the mind of Khan himself, the criticisms levied against Khan are just the result of local media being mean to him. In Curry’s eyes, Khan is an innocent victim who just wants to make the Jags financially viable – and to do so without offering any promises to keep the team in Jax for years to come. All the naysayers, like Monroe and his big, bad colleagues over at the Times-Union, are just haters spewing “nasty nonsense.”
It seems the two have quickly forgotten how the city’s residents welcomed Khan with open arms back when he first took over the team. They donned fake ‘staches and delighted in sightings of his mammoth Kismet yacht – all for a businessman with no previous ties to Jacksonville, who had just missed out on buying another team in a different part of the country prior to arriving here. Monroe’s column even makes note of this, framing Khan’s current behavior as all the more disappointing because of the hope he once provided to the franchise and its long-beleaguered fanbase.
And as far as treating the team itself poorly, it’s hard to imagine where Curry received that notion. Fans have continued to turn out to games in spite of a raging pandemic and an on-field product that has generated 14 straight losses, and the potential arrival of Lawrence has sparked an excitement not seen since the team’s surprising playoff run in 2017.
The city’s residents have, in reality, been quite patient with Khan over the years. They watched as he mangled local businesses, initiated bizarre plans to add swimming pools to an aging stadium, and even bait-and-switched the city on the renderings for Daily’s Place. They’ve waited as he promised big developments, first at the Shipyards and now at Lot J, while being provided with little more than renderings and vague agreements with Curry’s office. Through it all, many Jax residents and Jags fans have remained fiercely loyal to the man who at least initially offered hope of the team staying here for the long haul. And even those who have long ago tired of Khan’s – and Curry’s – antics are still holding out hope that all of this scheming truly is the result of a deep desire to keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
Now, as Khan asks for yet another taxpayer handout for yet another project that no one in the city actually requested, while also offering no indication that the team will stay in Jax beyond its current lease, it seems the goodwill has finally run out for him among his once-adoring public, and he may have to actually offer some transparency in order to get what he wants.
And quite frankly, no matter what the mayor says, there’s nothing wrong with that.