NASCAR Bans Confederate Flag Entirely
NASCAR officially banned the Confederate flag on Wednesday. It will no longer be allowed to appear in regard to any of its corporate properties and fans won’t be able to bring any iconography that might stoke racial tensions or a suspect “yee-haw” from the crowd.
For years, the sport has made unsuccessful efforts to broaden its appeal, so this is hardly a surprise given everything else that’s going on. In fact, an unofficial initiative attempted to ban the flag back in 2015. It never went anywhere, though, and fans continued to arrive with the Stars and Bars in roughly the same numbers.
This time around, the corporate stance is much stronger, and with more public support behind it. Additionally, NASCAR has decided that racing teams will no longer be obligated to stand for the American flag (the supposedly better one) during the national anthem.
While the banned flag holds little cultural significance to me as a Northerner, the cynic in me knows this is about a corporation covering its ass and not wanting to be held responsible for the actions of its fans. Racism will assuredly be on the lips of organizers, but blowback in the media will be the concept at the front of everybody’s mind.
Thanks to cancel culture, we’re living in a time where personal accountability is borderline nonexistent, but you can always hold someone else accountable for basically whatever you want. We doubt NASCAR will enforce its rule all that stringently, as anyone who has ever been to a super speedway race knows about twenty campers show up adorned with rebel iconography at every single event. It also doesn’t seem to have any plan for enforcing the flag’s prohibition, just a mandate for its patrons.
(Ed. note: At least one racing journo mentioned on Twitter that NASCAR is quite good at removing banned logos when it wants to be. So we’ll see what happens when fans return. Which could be so long from now that any controversy over the ban has died down).
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. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.
The corporate line borders on the apolitical, but there was enough wiggle room to incite the kind of conflict NASCAR probably hoped to avoid. Initially, most seemed to not mind the fact that the South won’t rise again over any American speedway — there was even some vocal praise. But then you started seeing people claiming they were finished with the sport, saying prohibiting the flag was overt political censorship, or un-American. NASCAR truck series driver Ray Ciccarelli said he would bow out permanently at the end of the current season.
“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,” he wrote on social media. “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!!”
The page has since been taken down by the author or deleted by Facebook. His Twitter page also doesn’t appear to exist anymore.
NASCAR’s only black driver working full time, Bubba Wallace, praised the decision to ban the Confederate flag. “Props to NASCAR and everybody involved,” he said in response to the ban. “It creates doors and allows the community to come together as one.”
Wallace had his No. 43 livery redone in a Black Lives Matter scheme; earlier in the week, he had called for a ban on the flag following nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice related to the killing of George Floyd.
“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race,” he told the media.
It’s going to be interesting to see if the updated rules are actually adhered to. Unlike online prohibition, companies have to go well out of their way to stop someone from wearing or holding something that causes offense in real life. Organizers also probably won’t want to turn more people away than they have to, and there’s a chance unhappy campers will defy the rule in protest. That said, there doesn’t seem to be much love left for a banner that can easily be construed as racist (regardless of the holder’s intent) and could get you into trouble — so we don’t really expect to see many cultural clashes at the front gate. Likewise, we doubt the sport’s most ardent fans will cry foul when they see the Confederate flag making an appearance at future events.
Then again, this could turn into a minor skirmish in the ongoing culture war and work against NASCAR’s efforts to regain its popularity. When the NBA effectively sided with the Chinese Communist Party after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of protests in Hong Kong, fans started arriving at games wearing “Stand With Hong Kong” T-shirts. The NBA started ejecting them from games, splitting its fan base while giving itself a black eye.
Granted, NASCAR’s move to prohibit a symbol broadly seen as racist by the public is a lot easier to get behind, but it opens the door for similar conflicts if it happens if a large enough community opposes the ban. The sport is already losing viewers at an alarming rate; polarizing the community hardly seems the way to win them back. Maybe this is all about doing what leadership believes to be the right thing and NASCAR really does have some skin in the game. The only way to know for sure is to count how many problematic flags show up at the next few races… once people are allowed to come back, that is.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, NASCAR wants to keep fans at home until June 21st. Guests will be permitted to attend the Dixie Vodka 400 in Florida and Alabama’s GEICO 500 as the first races open to the public. All fans will reportedly be screened before entering (temperature and PPE checks), be required to wear face masks, and must adhere to new social distance requirements. They will also be forbidden from the infield and subject to additional safety protocols.
Sounds like a blast.
[Image: Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock; NASCAR]
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