The Confederacy suffers another loss
Five years after feebly requesting that fans not bring Confederate flags to racetracks, NASCAR finally got around to instituting a full-fledged ban.
“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,” NASCAR said in a statement.
Bubba Wallace, the circuit’s only Black driver, who earlier this week called for the rebel flag to be banished from racetracks, should be proud of himself. By speaking out, he brought new attention to an issue that has plagued NASCAR for decades and forced the organization to act.
Wallace raced to an 11th-place finish at Martinsville on Wednesday night in a car with a special “Black Lives Matter” paint scheme and was asked before the race for his thoughts on the decision handed down hours earlier.
“Bravo. Props to NASCAR and everybody involved. This has been a stressful couple weeks,” Wallace said. “This is no doubt the biggest race of my career tonight. And it couldn’t be at a more perfect place, where I got my first win in the Truck Series in 2013. Followed it up with that second win in 2014, so I’m excited about tonight. There’s a lot of emotions on the race track and off the race track that are riding with us, but tonight is something special. Today’s been special. Again, hats off to NASCAR.
“[NASCAR president Steve] Phelps and I have been in contact a lot just trying to figure out what steps are next. And that was a huge, pivotal moment for the sport. Lot of backlash, but it creates doors and allows the community to come together as one, and that’s what the real mission is here. So I’m excited about that.”
Wallace also joined the Today show on Thursday morning to discuss the ban, saying that he had heard from fans attending races for the first time who said the flag made them feel uncomfortable.
What makes the ban so refreshing is how risky it is. Multibillion-dollar companies like NASCAR are usually incredibly risk-averse. It’s why you’ve seen corporations happy to release statements championing equality while refusing to acknowledge that what millions of people are protesting is specifically police brutality.
Wallace mentioned the backlash to the ban, which has been significant. While most of the country rightfully disdains the rebel flag, support for the symbol is stronger (though declining) in the South, where NASCAR’s bread is buttered. In a November 2018 Winthrop University poll of 1,000 people in 11 Southern states, 44% of white respondents said they had either a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the Confederate flag, compared to 15% of Black respondents. On the whole 37% of those polled viewed the flag favorably.
It’s disheartening to read comments on social media from those who oppose the ban for the stupidest reasons. My head exploded when I read a tweet from a guy who touted his and his family’s military service (presumably for the country that fought against the Confederacy) in denouncing the ban. I also saw that Wednesday’s Hot Clicks had been posted in a Facebook group for racing fans, where dozens of commenters attacked Wallace personally with racist memes. It’s sickening.
It’s not just random people online, either. After the news of the ban came down, Ray Ciccarelli, a driver in NASCAR’s trucks series, announced that he’s leaving the circuit. Ciccarelli, who’s from Maryland, called the ban “political BS!!” He made his announcement on Facebook, of course:
"Well its been a fun ride and dream come true but if this is the direction Nascar is headed we will not participate after 2020 season is over , i don't believe in kneeling during Anthem nor taken ppl right to fly what ever flag they love. I could care less about the Confederate Flag but there are ppl that do and it doesn't make them a racist all you are doing is f---ing one group to cater to another and i ain't spend the money we are to participate in any political BS!! So everything is for SALE!!"
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