NASCAR, like many sports leagues, put together a statement regarding racial injustice in the wake of nationwide protests against the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police in Minneapolis and Louisville. It had many of its top drivers put together a video they played before Sunday’s race in Atlanta, pledging to listen and learn, and NASCAR’s president remarked that the sport has work to do on issues of race and diversity.
Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s lone Black driver, has been a prominent figure in recent weeks, speaking out about his own personal experiences with racism, the police, and discrimination, as well as being a leading voice in pushing for change within the sport. While Wallace said he’s pleased with the response from NASCAR, he hoped this would be the start of the sport making significant changes. One of those changes he hoped to see was for confederate flags to be banned from NASCAR races, and on Wednesday, NASCAR announced officially that they would be doing just that.
To some this will seem like a no-brainer decision, but it is a rather incredible step taken by NASCAR given its fanbase and, as anyone that’s ever been to a race can attest, how prevalent the stars and bars are at events. It will be interesting to see how they enforce this and how far they go — will this also extend beyond flying a confederate flag on your RV to wearing a t-shirt with the confederate flag on it — but it’s certainly a start and another strong message that its statement promising to listen and take steps towards inclusiveness wasn’t just hollow words.
The backlash to this will undoubtedly come, but if there were ever a time to do this, it’s now when fans are just starting to be allowed back in small numbers, where enforcement of a new policy will be easier. As races open up to more and more fans it will be incumbent on NASCAR to stick to their word here, but it’s a policy very few ever thought they’d see in the sport so ingrained in the deep South.