The automotive world is not without its controversies. And it’s not only automakers like Volkswagen that experienced them. Consumer Reports faced one in the 90s for several misleading SUV reports. And now, NASCAR, itself an organization with a history based in illegal activity, is facing one, too. Specifically, driver Kyle Larson, for his recent use of a racial slur.
The NASCAR iRacing racial slur incident
With the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, many races and motorsports events have been canceled or postponed. Some, though, have been restructured into virtual racing events, usually through the iRacing simulator. It lets drivers from all parts of racing compete without risking death or injury. Also, it gives the fans something to watch and opens the field to new ideas and venues without the massive costs.
That was the motivation behind NASCAR’s ‘Monza Madness’ event on April 12, 2020, The Drive explains. There’s an oval track at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, but it’s in Italy IRL. Not an issue for iRacing.
And, while it is bumpy, the track’s high banks are almost purpose-built for NASCAR. 62 drivers lined up at the start for the 30-lap race, and not all were from NASCAR. Some normally raced in IndyCar, others in the NHRA, and others were purely e-racers.
Unfortunately, during the race, Kyle Larson, driver of Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42, uttered a racial slur, Autoweek reports. According to Business Insider, Larson apparently thought he was talking over team radio, but in actuality was publicly broadcasting. And, because the race was being streamed live on Twitch, the audience heard, as well. A clip of the sound bite is still online and is embedded below. Warning: this clip has not been edited or censored, and contains racist language.
Larson can be clearly heard saying, “You can’t hear me? Hey, n*****.” There are several seconds of silence, followed by fellow NASCAR driver Anthony Alfredo saying, “Hey, Kyle, you’re talking to everyone, bud.”
Responses to Kyle Larson’s behavior
Regardless of context, there is no excuse for Kyle Larson’s racist remark. And the response from the industry, Road & Track reports, has been swift. Firstly, Jalopnik reports, Chip Ganassi Racing has suspended Larson without pay, and is “extremely disappointed by what Kyle said”, calling his remarks “offensive and unacceptable.”
Business Insider points out that NASCAR’s rules on a public action that “criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition” is grounds for a fine and/or indefinite suspension, and even termination. As of this writing, NASCAR has chosen to indefinitely suspended Kyle Larson.
iRacing has also indefinitely suspended Larson from its services. And Credit One Bank, Larson’s primary sponsor, has joined Ganassi, iRacing, and NASCAR in denouncing his words.
For his part, Kyle Larson released an apology video on Monday. He states that “made a mistake and said the word that should never, ever be said. And there’s no excuse for that. I wasn’t raised that way and it’s just an awful thing to say.” It is worth noting that Larson entered NASCAR through the “Drive for Diversity” program, and is widely considered one of the most prominent non-white drivers in the organization.
This isn’t an isolated incident
Unfortunately, as both R&T and The Drive point out, this isn’t the first time a NASCAR driver has made racist remarks.
In 2013, Jeremey Clements was also suspended for allegedly using that word, though he returned after sensitivity training. And in 2018, Conor Daly lost one of his sponsors because his father, driver Derek Daly, reportedly used it in the 1980s.
It’s worth noting that racism in esports is not exclusive to motorsports, Kotaku reports. Other streamers and esports competitors have made their own racist remarks. And Twitch itself has struggled to fully stamp out racist chat trolls.
Nevertheless, whether it’s NASCAR, Mario Kart, or any other place, this type of behavior must not be tolerated.
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