Boxer Amir Khan says he's speaking out for innocent passengers after his removal from plane

·4 min read

Professional boxer Amir Khan said he was removed from an American Airlines plane in what he called a racially motivated incident on Sept. 18 and plans to keep speaking out about it because of the response he has received.

Khan, who is of Pakistani descent and is the former light-welterweight world champion, said he has learned he is not alone since he shared his story by video on Twitter.

“So many people messaged me afterwards saying that they went through the same situation, and it’s funny because it’s always American Airlines,’ ” Khan told USA TODAY Sports. “I'm lucky I have a voice to tell people my story whereas there are people out there who are probably innocent like me and never have the opportunity to give their word to it because no one listens to them.

"I want to be the voice for people saying, ‘Look, you can’t be treating innocent people who’ve done nothing wrong like this.’ ”

The airline said the passengers who were removed weren't following rules.

Amir Khan prepares for his fight against Terence Crawford in 2019.
Amir Khan prepares for his fight against Terence Crawford in 2019.

Khan, who said he was traveling from New York to Colorado Springs for training camp, noted that the incident took place about a week after the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that he was traveling with a training partner of Indian descent. He said both men have dark complexions and were sitting in seats 1A and 1B.

Speculating that the flight attendants felt threatened, Khan said, “We’re not all terrorists.’’

He said he was embarrassed to have been removed by police in front of a full plane and “taken off like criminals.’’

American Airlines, when asked for comment, said two customers refused requests to stow luggage, place cell phones in airplane mode and adhere to federal face covering requirements before they were removed from the plane.

“Prior to takeoff on Sept. 18, American Airlines Flight 700, with service from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), returned to the gate to deplane two customers who reportedly refused to comply with repeated crew member requests to stow luggage, place cell phones in airplane mode and adhere to federal face covering requirements,’’ the airline said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports.

Khan disputed the allegations.

He said three police officers came onto the plane and escorted Khan and his training partner off the plane. He said he later saw two police cars parked near the plane. He said the officers saw him take his bag from the overhead bin and later took a photo with him after they recognized the boxer.

Photos of the Khan posing with the three officers and a photo of the two police vehicles next to the plane were posted on Khan’s Twitter account.

On the plane, Khan said, “There was no shouting or anything. I was just told the once to put my phone down and I did.’’ He added that his training partner was asked to put his mask above his nose after taking it off to drink water and that the training partner complied.

American Airlines denied police came onto the plane during the incident and said it conducted an investigation of the matter that supported its original statement.

“Per protocol, police were present when the aircraft returned to the gate, but were not involved in asking either passenger to deplane and did not intervene at any point,’’ the airline said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports.

Khan said he had been banned from traveling on American Airlines and the airline’s partners, but American said that’s not the case.

“My travel agent was told when he tried to book a new ticket for me, that’s when he was told I had been banned,’’ Khan said. “So maybe they changed that now.’’

Khan said it took him two additional days to make it to Colorado Springs, where he was “pre-training’’ for a fight early next year against an opponent yet to be determined. He said he typically flies every month and "I have never, ever experienced anything like this in my life.’’

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Boxer Amir Khan removed from American Airlines plane

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