If you’ve ever been to a NASCAR event you see them. Even along the roads leading into a track vendors are selling Confederate flags. They’re displayed in the back of pickups. They outline tailgate parties in speedway parking lots. Whether you agree or not they are part of the atmosphere of any NASCAR race. Well, they were. Today NASCAR announced it is banning all Confederate flags from racetracks. It’s an amazing shift and all part of the wave of changes taking place after the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a couple of weeks ago.
Here’s NASCAR’s official statement:
“The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors, and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
In the wake of the Floyd murder the only black full-time NASCAR driver; Bubba Wallace, called on NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag. That was only two days ago. NASCAR didn’t take long to make its decision.
“We have to change that, and I encourage NASCAR — we will have those conversations to remove those flags”
“There’s going to be a lot of angry people that carry those flags proudly, but it’s time for change,” he told CNN. “We have to change that, and I encourage NASCAR — we will have those conversations to remove those flags.” Even before his comments and request about removing Confederate flags his Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet was changed to a Black Lives Matter paint scheme for the next NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. It is a bid by the Petty organization to encourage racial equality.
This also falls in line with other events and organizations taking down Confederate flags and Confederate statues all across the country. When asked about seeing the flag where he grew up in Alabama, Wallace said, “What I’m chasing is checkered flags, and that was kind of my narrative, but diving more into it and educating myself, people feel uncomfortable with that, people talk about that — that’s the first thing they bring up.”
Wallace finished second in the 2018 Daytona 500 but has not shined as brightly since then. His sponsorship deals have been mostly a patchwork barely enough to keep racing. But his brave stance on Confederate flags at NASCAR events may change that. Sponsors want to have some of a driver’s media attention rub off on them and right now Wallace is garnering a lot of very positive attention.
Many NASCAR drivers are embracing Wallace’s comments
Back in 2015 former NASCAR head Bill France tried to ban the flying of Confederate flags at its events. Enforcement was difficult and in the end, it angered NASCAR’s mostly Southern-based fans. But in the wake of Floyd’s death, the timing couldn’t be better. Many NASCAR drivers are embracing Wallace’s comments. “I think it’s one of those things that some of us are just ignorant about and don’t really think about it or worry about it,” 2017 Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. said Tuesday. “And then you hear somebody like Bubba talk about it and how he feels about it and it wakes you up a bit. Yeah, I think NASCAR is going to do the right thing there.”