Friday, November 18, 2011

Keselowski's Fine Triggers Debate

Brad Keselowski’s apparent $50,000 fine for comments critical of NASCAR has inspired a great deal of debate; debate that unfortunately detracts from what promises to be an exciting tripleheader weekend of championship-deciding events at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Among all the emotion, here are a few facts.

During an appearance last week at the NASCAR Hall Of Fame, Keselowski responded critically when asked by reporters about NASCAR’s conversion to electronic fuel injection in 2012. "We're not doing this because it's better for the teams," said Keselowski. "I don't think we're really going to save any gas. Cars on the street are injected with real electronics, not a throttle body. So we've managed to go from 50-year-old technology to 35-year-old technology. I don't see what the big deal is."

Had Keselowski stopped there, he may be gotten off scot-free. However, he also accused NASCAR of orchestrating a fuel-injected “media circus” to curry favorable press reaction, comments that clearly did not sit well with the sanctioning body. “It's a media circus,” said the Penske Racing driver. “(NASCAR is) trying to make you guys happy so you write good stories. It gives them something to promote. We're always looking for something to promote, but the honest answer is it does nothing for the sport, except cost the team owners money.”

While stopping short of confirming a fine, NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp told Associated Press reporter Jenna Fryer Thursday, “We did talk to Brad following his recent comments that were highly critical of the series moving to electronic fuel injection next season. We made it clear to him that these kind of comments are detrimental to the sport, and we handled it accordingly."

Fining athletes for comments critical of their respective leagues is hardly new, and it is not unique to NASCAR. The National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and National Hockey League all routinely sanction athletes and coaches for disparaging comments about officials, and have for years. In the 1980s, Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon was fined by the NFL for wearing a headband emblazoned with an unauthorized corporate logo, then fined again a week later for replacing the logo with the name of then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. More recently, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was fined $10,000 by the NFL last month for using a cell phone on the sidelines after leaving a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a concussion. NFL players are routinely penalized for undue celebration after a big play, and virtually every sports league fines coaches and players for disparaging remarks and second-guessing of umpires and referees.

Freedom of speech is one of the basic tenets of our free society; guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. There are limits to free speech, however. Courts long ago ruled that there is no right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie house, and businesses routinely fire employees for comments and conduct detrimental to the company. NASCAR – along with the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL – are no different.

We can only hope that in the future, the process may become a bit more transparent.

22 comments:

  1. Ethenol is good for nothing but boosting the sale of Sta-Bil. Ruins engine parts. Costs consumers $$$.

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  2. Nascar reminds me a lot of the administration in DC. Do not make negative comments or you will suffer the consequences. Nascar is becoming something it should not be. Drivers and owners deserve to have opinions in the sport. It is almost like a Dictatorship mentality with the heads of the sport. Long time fan!

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  3. And agree with skiinner7486, Ethenol is such a bad thing for Nascar and the American consumer. Looks like Nascar jumps on board at a time when it should be totally against it. Inflation in the commodity sector being fueled by ethenol!

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  4. Chubdubblub10:50 AM

    Last time I checked, drivers are NOT employees of NASCAR.

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  5. If Nascar would had done nothing,this whole fuel injection firestorm would have blown over without incident. In my opinion, Nascar has become way too thin skinned and tries to micro-manage the sport by decrying comments and actions as being "detrimental to the sport." If they keep this up, drivers will seek to find an advocate to speak on their behalf. This could lead to the start of new movement for a drivers union. I'm sure they don't want to go there.

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  6. Dwayne in Memphis11:15 AM

    Just as a side note...the First Amendment says the Government can't make laws restricting your speech. It says nothing about your boss (or organization that pays you as an independent contractor)fining you for not liking what you say.

    You can say any old, stupid thing you want, but the First Amendment does not protect you from repercussions about the stupid thing you said (see Hank Williams, Jr and ESPN). The First Amendment just says Brad won't go to jail for saying that Fuel Injection is dumb.

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  7. Darrell11:27 AM

    NASCAR is changing for the worst with all these fines for an opinion expressed. Fine drivers for over aggressive driving and cheating but lay off handing out fines for expressing options or your fan base will turn against you.

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  8. Anonymous11:34 AM

    I agree 100% with brad.I also think NASCAR is getting more and more communist by the season. You would think with all this FI hype that they were really doing something special. All it does is waste money that is harder and harder to come by in recent years, for no benefit in the racing that you will notice.

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  9. Anonymous11:53 AM

    I think that if Nascar didn't want to know how the drivers felt about EFI they should not have had them test. Don't ask if you don't want to hear the truth.

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  10. Were I a driver, I'd sure like to see what passes for rules on what one can say - or not.

    What exactly did Brad say that was detrimental to the sport? Sure looks like he spoke the truth. I thought NASCAR didn't want their drivers to let their personalities shine through to attract more viewers? How has Brad's statements driven fans away?

    I've gained a lot of respect for Brad this year, and this incident only cements that view.

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  11. LOL at the "communist" line! Thanks everyone for the intelligent, thoughtful debate. I don't miss the name calling a bit!

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  12. Anonymous3:09 PM

    Evidently, "boys have at it" does not apply to one's ability to think critically and to speak. NASCAR's fault in this regard is found in its ever-willingness to dilute personalities for the sake of image. The reality is, there was a sting of truth in BK's words. Me think thou doth protest too much, Mr. France.
    Dan

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  13. Dwayne in Memphis3:19 PM

    Crap! I completely forgot to point out in my First Amendment ellaboration that this guy's a jerk and that guy is overrated and that other guy should be fired from humanity and never allowed to so much as drive a golf cart ever again!!

    Thanks for reminding me, Dave!

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  14. Anonymous3:21 PM

    I just wonder what NASCAR would do if all 43 teams decided not to show on raceday for the Daytona 500. They can't suspend all 43 teams, nor all 43 drivers. It is ridiculous that any company or sport has the right to tell you not to criticize them. Especially the umpires and refs. Sometimes they do such a bad job, or they really are fixing the results and the sports commissions don't want the cat out of the bag. I believe the latter. Anything that involves millions of dollars is not on the up and up

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  15. Anonymous5:07 PM

    I totally understand car owners and/or sponsors "fining" drivers for their words/actions that badly reflect on them, because they are the ones actually paying the drivers. NASCAR/promoters just put up "money to be won" based on performance in a contest... they don't have these independent contractors on their payroll. NASCAR IS WAY OFF-BASE in this matter, possibly even from a legal standpoint. Of course everyone understands that NASCAR can easily "screw-over" any competitor they want to... so they continue to get away with "playing dictator" unchallenged.
    It must be a sign of the "financial times" that the France family isn't making enough money, so they have to "Steal it" from those who made them Billionaires!

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  16. Anonymous7:49 PM

    Lets not forget that NASCAR is more about the "show" than it is about the racing. A huge amount of money is being earned from the popularity of this show. It would be hard to find an intelligent argument supporting the change to EFI. The amount of gas saved in an entire season by all teams combined wouldn't offset the cost of just one team to change over for ten years. You won't convince even one environmental minded person that the carbon emission created during a NASCAR race was reduced any significant amount by the change over. As a fan, there seems more and more things everyday that don't seem to make sense to me.

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  17. Anonymous8:56 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  18. Anonymous9:59 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  19. Anonymous10:12 PM

    Moody, you are 100% correct. Some of the comments on here and on the Facebook page are getting more and more ridiculous by the minute it seems. See the last post from "anonymous" for confirmation. You do an outstanding job Dave and I thank you for it. For those of you that would like to continue the name calling and ludicrous accusations, the next time you see a soldier or sailor, thank them for keeping your right to do that safe!!


    Steve in Texas

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  20. Anonymous7:59 AM

    NASCAR is trying to please the PC crowd. Boys have at it but don't speak out against El Supremo

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  21. anonymous internet genius1:21 PM

    the ethanol and efi can be traced to one simple fact. brian france gets to cash another check. it would be nice to know the amount of the check required to get american ethanol around the fuel fillers of each of the race cars. there have been a few press releases trickle out abut official suppliers of fuel injection parts for the new system. in laymans terms, official means brian cashes another check.

    i feel bill and bill jr france understood the sport of racing. brian is an absentee ceo much like teresa was accused of being and absentee owner. when brian cashes a check, he sends an order to darby and helton.

    just one mans opinion.

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  22. I see a few folks here are missing the big picture. No Brad is not an "employee" of NASCAR. however, he was on a NASCAR property, at NASCAR's request, for promotion of NASCAR's product. So they have the right to tell him what he can and cannot say. For you folks that keep yelling first amendment, you have it all wrong. The first Amendment protects you from the government, not private individuals. I do agree that the pushing of ethanol is not a good idea. I also agree with Brad that we need not go halfway with this idea. If we are going to go to fuel injection, then lets do it right and go for true EFI as found on most auto engines today.

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