New Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan comes from a first-generation immigrant family, his father being Indian, his mother Honduran. His multi-ethnic American upbringing has very much defined him, as does everybody’s background work to define them, and he has never felt the need to hide who he is.
Indeed, his willingness to be open and free in his identity has had some significant implications. Over the past couple of decades, it has played a role in the organization’s efforts, for example, to reach out to the Latin-American community who are their fans, and Khan has been a willing participant in often leading in such ventures.
It’s something that he recently talked about during a Spanish-language interview conducted by Álvaro Martin for the team’s digital platforms. While my Spanish is unfortunately not good enough for me to be comfortable in attempting a polished translation, I can at least summarize the conversation.
Khan immediately deflected any suggestion that he worked alone in these outreach efforts, but talked about how the manner in which he would openly speak Spanish to his Spanish-speaking family while they were around in the building encouraged others to learn about his culture, which led to bigger things.
He said that since arriving in Pittsburgh, he began to gain a greater understanding of the nature of the fan population within the Latin-American community, not just for football generally, but also specifically for the black and gold—in Mexico, in California, in Florida, in Texas, etc.
He had conversations with Dan Rooney that kicked off outreach efforts that saw himself accompanied by prominent players such as Hines Ward serving as Steelers Nation ambassadors on trips across the border. We just saw current Steelers second-year running back Najee Harris take a trip to Mexico—his first time out of the country, he said—to announce one of the team’s draft picks last month.
It is in part because of these active efforts to engage with this population that the Steelers count within the Latin-American community so many fans, and why they have been so eager to have another opportunity to play a game in Mexico.
We even have readers from Mexico who are avid followers of our own work, which we never take for granted. There is a simple principle at work here—go where the fans are. The NFL has been trying to expand its brand across national and ethnic borders from some time now. They’re never going to be like the other football, but they can certainly at least expand across North America.