The White Zone: NASCAR, either put up or shut up

NASCAR
HAMPTON, GEORGIA - JUNE 07: Crew members pause and stand on pit wall for a moment of listening in reflection of recent social unrest prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 07, 2020 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Before the start of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the field stopped on the frontstretch and NASCAR threw its two cents into the ongoing protests and riots over the death of George Floyd.

Every member of every crew, donned in face masks, stood on the pit wall. NASCAR President, Steve Phelps, spoke over the radio and addressed the need for change. This was followed by a moment of silence and a montage of drivers also addressing the need for change, addressing racism, etc.

To many, it was a touching and moving gesture. To me, a cynic, it rang so damn hollow.

You want this to mean something, NASCAR? Then prove me wrong.

I’ll even throw you a bone and suggest a place to start: the President of the United States.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m a left-leaning libertarian. Also, everything I’m about to say, I’d still say it if the current president were Barack Obama or anyone else.

Donald Trump’s actions, Monday, where he called himself an “ally of peaceful protesters,” while nearby police violently dispersed protesters to clear a path to a church that was damaged last Sunday for a photo-op, combined with his failure to address police brutality, has made the protests and riots worse.

Furthermore, given that you let him parade around Daytona International Speedway in February, nothing said by Phelps or the drivers in this video — one of whom endorsed Trump for president in 2016 — means a damn thing.

If you want it to, call out Trump, denounce his actions and sever any ties. If not, all of this is as meaningless as pulling the XFINITY and Truck Series banquets from one of Trump’s Miami resorts in 2015, only for your then Chairman and CEO, Brian France, to endorse him a few months later.

One more thing you could do is actually go all the way with banning the Confederate flag.

As someone who’s lived in the Southeastern United States his whole life, I understand that many people in the South don’t view it as a symbol of racism. Rather, they see it as one of Southern pride, or want to rehabilitate its image into that.

I get it.

Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion on the Confederate flag. Mostly because I don’t feel it’s worth getting worked up over a piece of cloth.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve also said the same about the American flag.

My view, however, isn’t how most people feel about it. In a 2019 poll by YouGov, a plurality of respondents (41 percent) said it represented racism.

Furthermore, of the 11 former Confederate states, only respondents in Arkansas and Louisiana mostly said it represented heritage.

It breaks down responses from people by race and education. You can read it here.

The point is that most people see the Confederate flag as a relic of a bygone era. NASCAR should follow suite and ban it from the tracks it owns.

NASCAR, you no longer have the paper-thin excuse of those tracks belonging to International Speedway Corporation. You now have the power to ban the Confederate flag from any part of your tracks’ premises.

If you take that step, then Speedway Motorsports, LLC., Dover Motorsports, the Mattiolli family and Penske Entertainment probably won’t be far behind in doing the same.

As long as the infields at tracks are full of Confederate flags in full view of the TV audience, then your detractors will always have a reason to pull out old B-roll footage of Johnny Rebel at Darlington Raceway and NASCAR founder Bill France endorsing avid-segregationist, George Wallace, for president.

Being a cynical person, I think nothing will happen, and it’ll just be a giant virtue signal that validates every point UninatingTree made in his video, “A Message From The Company.”

If you truly mean what you said, Sunday, NASCAR, then put your money where your mouth is and prove me and the cynics of the world wrong.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth.

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I've been a fan of NASCAR since I was five years old. My passion for it, and auto racing in general, inspired me to pursue a career in it. For four years, I covered NASCAR and IndyCar for SpeedwayMedia.com. I'm currently studying at the University of Tennessee to pursue a career in sports writing. As a student at the University of Tennessee, and a native of Knoxville, Tenn., I'm a diehard fan of Tennessee Volunteers football. If covering NASCAR doesn't kill me one day, watching Tennessee football will. I'm also a fan of the Atlanta Braves, the Nashville Predators and the NFL. Outside of sports, I watch anime, read manga and watch a lot of films.

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