NASCAR, the stock-car racing series born out of the Old South, moonshining and, yes, Jim Crow days of racism, took a strong stand Wednesday with an outright ban of Confederate flags and other symbols of a Civil War based on racism and slavery.
Of course, the ban is minuscule at the moment since races are run before empty stands because of the COVID-19 Coronvirus crowd-size and social distancing limitation in place.
When crowds do came back through the gates, however, they must be devoid of Confederate Battle flags or clothing displaying them.
In a statement issued by the sanctioning authority:
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. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special.–NASCAR
The statement follows requests by Bubba Wallace, the only African American driver in NASCAR’s top division, who drives the iconic “43” car of legendary Richard Petty’s enterprises. Wallace was joined by other drivers, including seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, in urging the signs of the confederacy disappear from NASCAR.
Wallace’s car displayed a “Black Lives Matter” display in a race at Martinsville Wednesday night and called the event the “biggest race of my career.” He finished 11th in the race and ran in the top 10 for much of the event.
“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. It starts with confederate flags,” Wallace told CNN on Monday.
Retired NASCAR favorite driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. agreed:
I think it’s offensive to an entire race, It does nothing for anybody to be there flying, so I don’t see any reason. It belongs in the history books and that’s about it.
In online chat rooms and on social media websites, a few of the self-declared “good old boys” invoke obscenities and swear they will never attend another NASCAR event.
“Good luck with that, I’ll be bringing mine to every race,” declares someone who calls themselves “Tennessee Patriot” on Twitter.
That tweet brought responses like: “How do you fly the confederate flag and claim to be a patriot? You know that the confederacy wanted to leave the United States, right? You know, that time we had a civil war?”
The outright ban replaces a lukewarm “recommendation” by then NASCAR chairman Brian France in 2015 when he urged fans to refrain displaying the battle flag of the confederacy after a young madman, displaying the flag and other symbols of the losing side of the war on his website and Facebook page, gunned down nine Americans at a South Carolina church.
NASCAR prohibited displaying a Confederate flag symbol on its race cars on licensed merchandise but critics said he failed to take needed action on the flags flying in infield parking area or on t-shirts, hats and other items worn by fans.