NASCAR Bans Use of Confederate Flag and Some Drivers Are Unhappy
The Confederate flag has waved freely at NASCAR races for more than a half century. Regardless of it’s complicated history, it’s presence has been familiar and treated as an afterthought throughout the civil rights movement and up until February of 2020. Things are about to change.
America has been forced to come to grips with the fact that systematic racism has been brushed under the fug and is no longer an avoidable conversation. Brands have evaluated their presence and how they are showing up in the world when it comes to solidarity for the Black community. NASCAR is one of those organizations.
They recently made an announcement that they have banned the controversial flag from all races and and venues, a huge step being that the flag is heavily deep rooted in Southern tradition. The issue of the flag’s presence was brought to the forefront by Bubba Wallace, Alabama native, and NASCAR’s lone black driver who used his platform to call for the banishment of the flag stating there was “no place” for the flag in the sport.
Wallace drove Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. The car was wrapped with a #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme. Wallace was seen wearing an American flag mask, and an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt.
His Chevy had “Compassion, Love, Understanding” emblazoned on the hood. Which is now a T-shirt that can be purchased on his website bubbaspeedshop.com. He’s garnered attention for his stance by many notable figures including Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.
King tweeted ”#NASCAR, family” after the announcement, and the NAACP also applauded the act by thanking NASCAR for taking the necessary step to “remove symbols of hate, racism, and discrimination from their events.”
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) June 10, 2020
The conversation of removing the flag began five years ago after the tragic death of nine black people who were brutally murdered in a church in Charleston South Carolina by Dylann Roof. He flaunted the Confederate symbols before the shooting, raising the awareness of the hatred that the flag represents.
It was during that time that the NASCAR chairman, Brian France, said he was working with the organization to see how far we can go to get the flag disassociated entirely from the events. NASCAR’s morals were also called into question after one of it’s drivers, Kyle Larson uttered a racial slur during a live-stream virtual race.
It took up until the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered on May 25, 2020 after an officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes for NASCAR to make the final decision. The flag being banned was an action taken by NASCAR in hopes that a new legacy can be formed for the sport.
Wallace received support from several of his fellow drivers including two-time Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin, and one of Wallace’s best friends, Ryan Blaney.
“I’m really proud of what he’s doing, the effort he’s putting in and wanting to kind of lead the charge,” Blaney said in an article with ABC news. “I stand behind him. A lot of guys stand behind him. Not only the drivers, but a lot of teams, as well. Crew members. The car he ran tonight was great. I loved that he was able to do that and come up with that idea.”
Wallace will not stop with having the flag removed. He stated he will continue to work with NASCAR to figure out what the next steps are.
“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. “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.”
Although Wallace received some support for his actions, not everyone agreed with the change.
Fans took to social media to express their frustrations over the change, and truck series driver Ray Ciccarelli posted on Facebook he would quit the sport, stating, “I could care less about the Confederate Flag but there are ppl that do and it doesn’t make them a racist.”
The post went viral after NASCAR clapped back stating they weren’t even familiar with Ciccarelli’s name.
Ciccarelli has since deleted the post stating the post was taken out of context.
“I regret how it was misconstrued,” said Ciccarelli. “I don’t regret my feelings of believing in the national anthem and standing. I don’t like the fact that I was misconstrued about defending the Confederate flag. Because in no way shape or form was I defending the Confederate flag.
“Everything I was saying was the fact that I understand both sides’ feelings toward the flag. My viewpoint, all I was trying to say is how do you take [the flag] from one group and help support the group that it offends and then what do you do to the group that you took it from? Now, they get outraged.”
Since the post, he states his family has been “attacked and abused” on social media.
For the record, Ciccarelli has had a lackluster career in NASCAR to say the least. He’s only had one top-10 finish in his Truck Series career, and he’s never finished higher than 33rd in points standings.
NASCAR helmet artist Jason Beam also expressed his disagreement stating in a tweet“ignorance wins again, NASCAR you realize the North had slaves too, lol not just the South, you want to remove the American Flag as well, idiots.”
It’s clear that change is uncomfortable for many. We’re happy to see the push for social equality.
NASCAR began welcoming fans back to the races on June 14th.
UPDATE: June 21, 2020
Bubba Wallace finds noose hanging in his garage before race. Here’s What he had to say.