This past weekend, NASCAR’s fanless season continued in Atlanta, but prior to the race they made a rare statement in the realm of social issues, as they played a video featuring a number of their high profile drivers speaking on the need to listen and learn about racial inequality and police brutality.
That message was prompted by the week-plus of protests that have been going on nationwide since the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police in Minneapolis and Louisville. For a sport like NASCAR to feel it necessary to make such a video message shows the impact the Black Lives Matter movement is having, but there is still a long way for the sport to go in terms of embracing diversity.
There is one Black driver in NASCAR, Bubba Wallace, and as such he has been quite busy over the last week with interviews and questions about what it’s like to be the lone Black man in a sport that has long lacked much in the way of diversity. Wallace has handled that responsibility with incredible tact, speaking with numerous outlets on the matter and NASCAR’s response in recent days. On Monday, he joined CNN’s Don Lemon for one of those discussions, and noted that he’s felt NASCAR’s leadership has done well and been very willing to listen to him. However, he hopes that continues and, when asked what the next step he thinks the sport should take is, he pointed out that confederate flags should no longer be allowed to fly at races.
"My next step would be to get rid of all Confederate flags,” says NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace after throwing his support behind the nationwide protests against police brutality. “Get them out of here." https://t.co/Kf4CrMLLGh pic.twitter.com/wSSBhByguS
— CNN (@CNN) June 9, 2020
Wallace makes the point that no one should come to races and feel uncomfortable or like they don’t belong, and for Black Americans, the confederate flag is a symbol of exactly that, exclusion and a place they don’t belong and aren’t wanted. While there were plenty of NASCAR fans that appreciated the message on Sunday, there was also backlash from, what is very possibly, just a vocal minority. What happens next will be fascinating as NASCAR will either move forward without putting more into action, alienating those like Wallace who feel they’re committed to making real change and want to help with the net steps, or their message will actually mean what they said and they’ll listen and implement policies like what Bubba expresses here. If they do the latter, there will be more backlash and anger from some, but if NASCAR is serious about expanding its footprint and becoming more progressive on issues of race, they’ll have to leave some folks behind to do so.