Some workers at one of his plants, though, believe Khan has forgotten who helped make him a success. They accuse Khan of failing to clean up industrial chemicals and toxic substances that spewed out of the Chrome Craft Corporation, a company in Highland Park, Mich., that Khan owns.
Accompanied by several dozen members of the United Auto Workers, several former employees of the company took their case to New York to demand that the N.F.L. pressure Khan to address the situation. They gathered Thursday at the N.F.L. store on Sixth Avenue, just a few blocks south of Radio City Music Hall, where the league was holding its annual draft.
“He paints himself as the American dream, but it came at the expense of the workers,” said , a U.A.W. vice president. “The league needs to tell him to clean up the plant and deal with the problems.”
The plant, which was idled in late 2009 and has not reopened, is owned by , a privately held auto parts manufacturer that Khan took over several decades ago. The company now has $3 billion in sales, 48 plants and more than 12,000 employees, and has its headquarters in Urbana, Ill.
Workers who were employed at Chrome Craft said they were forced to handle dangerous chemicals, like chromium, without proper protection. Mike Miley, 41, who worked at the plant for 20 years until it closed, said he wore a thin protective suit “that soaked through like tissue” when he was asked to clean storage tanks and move chemicals into drums.
Miley’s epileptic seizures, which increased while working at the plant, have slowed since being laid off in 2009, he said. His father and two uncles who also worked at the plant for about 40 years each died of cancer.
“He needs to clean up the plant and take responsibility for the people he made sick,” Miley said.
The Rev. , pastor of the Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Highland Park, said he wanted Khan to apologize and set up a green development fund in the city.
Brad Wurfel, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said the department inspected the site after a request from union, religious and environmental leaders, and found no hazardous materials. The department is planning to take soil and water samples from near the factory. The company, Wurfel said, has cooperated with the investigation.
“We have no evidence that there’s ground water contamination there,” he said. But, he added, “it’s a highly urbanized area with a long history of industrial chemicals being used.”
The company had been cited for environmental violations before and addressed all the problems raised, Wurfel said.
In a statement, Flex-N-Gate said: “We comply with all laws, including environmental, workers’ health and safety, and public protection. We settle for nothing less.”
After their rally in front of the N.F.L. shop, the protesters walked to the league’s headquarters to state their case to the commissioner. The group gave a spokesman for the league a package that included a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell and 100 pages of citations and documents and testimony from workers.
“At this point, they are in possession of what I believe is a comprehensive case,” said Pastor Bullock, who said he was told that Goodell would be given the materials. “There is a certain perception the league wants to have, and I think they will consider it in terms what kind of potential negative shadow that it might have.”