Tell ’em, Marty
NASCAR may have banned the Confederate flag, but weeding out racism will be much harder.
On Sunday at Talladega, people flew the flag outside the track and there was even a plane towing a rebel flag and a banner that read “Defund NASCAR” flying overhead. A limited number of fans were allowed into the track (before the race was postponed by rain) and all of them abided by the ban.
There was one sickening incident of racism, though. NASCAR announced late Sunday night that a noose had been discovered inside the garage of Bubba Wallace, the circuit’s only Black driver and the man who was brave enough to urge NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag. The incident is under investigation.
After the news broke, ESPN’s Marty Smith, who had been covering the race, joined Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter to share his reaction. Smith’s response was powerful. He spoke uninterrupted for nearly five minutes about how shocking and disappointing it was that someone with close access to the drivers would do something so hateful.
“This sport is moving forward,” Smith said. “This sport is in a progressive mod. This sport is in a moment where this crap, this despicable crap, is not only not acceptable, but there’s just no place for it. Whomever that is, I hope that you are so ashamed of yourself. I hope that you realize that that is someone’s dignity and that is someone’s positioning in this sport, who has earned his place by talent and by hard work and he stood up for something that he believed. He asked for help from other people who believe similarly. The measures were taken to start taking those steps.
“And then we come down here, to a place that I love—I love Talladega, Alabama, it’s my favorite place on the NASCAR tour, it’s my favorite race, I love the staff here—and then something like this happens?! In the garage area?! In the garage area of Richard Petty’s racecar?! For a young man in Bubba Wallace who has galvanized so many people because he was willing to stand up for something that is so long overdue and NASCAR’s current management agrees that it was time to take this stand. And then somebody goes and does this. You’re not just hurting one or two people, whomever you are. You’re hurting a whole lot of people who made the decision that it’s damn sure time to go be better. And it pisses me the hell off and it pisses everybody else in the sport off who care, who care not only for Bubba but for every other person who he is standing up for. I am so sorry that we even have to have this discussion tonight.”
And he kept going from there. The whole video is certainly worth your time. Incredibly, Smith manages to work some reporting into his passionate monologue. He said that he was told by a “senior NASCAR official” that the person responsible will be banished from sport. He also reported that Wallace never saw the noose himself.
Every sane person should have the same reaction to this news that Smith did. It’s horrifying and I can only hope that they find whoever was stupid and hateful enough to risk their job so they could be a racist.
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