Wednesday, March 06, 2013

COMMENTARY: NRA Debate Overblown, From Both Sides Of The Political Aisle

I am a non-combatant in the ongoing debate over gun rights. 

I don’t own a gun, but I have no problem with those who do. I don’t hunt, but I have numerous friends and family members who are enthusiastic hunters. I mourned the senseless, horrific slaughter of innocent children at Sandy Hook (CT) Elementary School, while also believing that the solution to such violence is more complicated than repealing the Second Amendment and disarming America. 

I’m not a member of the National Rifle Association, but I know plenty of people who are.  And from my position here in the middle, the debate over the NRA’s most recent sojourn into NASCAR has been amusing, in the extreme. 

Six months ago, the NRA served as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series "NRA American Warrior 300" at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Despite its aggressive name, the sponsorship generated little or no attention. Last week, they upped the ante a notch, announcing plans to sponsor next month’s “NRA 500” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. In marked contrast to last season’s Nationwide Series effort, the “NRA 500” announcement has generated a veritable tsunami of attention, publicity and discussion. 

Pro-gun advocates are high-fiving the sponsorship, while the anti-gun lobby howls with disdain. The various social media platforms are aflame with debate, argument and downright nastiness; all based on gun control, Second Amendment rights and the NRA. Gun control extremists have painted the NRA, Texas Motor Speedway and NASCAR as nothing less than accomplices to child murder, while the pro-gun lobby wraps itself – and NASCAR – in the American flag.  
It’s all horribly overblown, and exactly what the NRA had in mind.  

The National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the country, spending millions of dollars to promote its point of view and influence elections and public policy. They are openly political, courting favor on Capitol Hill and turning their well-organized ire on elected officials who don’t see things their way.  

There’s nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, it’s the American Way. 

Apparently, however, the NRA’s openly political agenda is news to Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage, who told USA TODAY this week that the NRA 500 is “a sports marketing event… not a political platform." It was a truly baffling assertion, stunning in its naiveté, and produced the expected response from those on the “anti” side of the gun control debate. writer Dave Zirin called Gossage’s assertion, “too disingenuous for words,” adding, “You could choke on this level of disingenuousness.” 

Event sponsorship is the most basic type of transaction. You give me money, I’ll give you access to our fans and competitors. Simple.
TMS Pres. Eddie Gossage
The “NRA 500” is a political advertisement, no better or worse than an advertisement for any other product or service. Bass Pro Shops has been a NASCAR team sponsor for nearly two decades, backing a list of drivers that includes the late Dale Earnhardt, Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon and Tony Stewart, and has served as title sponsor for a number of races over the years.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Bass Pro Shops sells guns. Lots and lots of guns. And yet, nobody on the anti-NRA side of this argument seems to have noticed. If they have noticed, they certainly haven’t cared.

Apparently, companies that sell guns are acceptable NASCAR sponsors, but an organization that supports their right to do so, is not.

Last month, Michael Waltrip raced in the season-opening Daytona 500 at the wheel of a Toyota Camry that promoted a grassroots relief effort for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., killings. The point of that effort was to attract attention, garner publicity and spur people to meaningful action. The goals of the “NRA 500” sponsorship are no different.
By underwriting next month’s race, the NRA hopes to attract attention, garner publicity for its platform and spur new supporters to action. In that effort, they have already succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
While still nearly a month away, the “NRA 500” is the most-discussed topic in NASCAR today, supplanting even Danica Patrick from the headlines, at least temporarily. When is the last time a race sponsor got this kind of “pop,” a month in advance?
No longer required
It’s unprecedented.
Gossage said he doubts next month’s “NRA 500” will change anyone’s mind on gun control, and in that belief, he is not alone. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) told Smoking Gun writer Patrick Hruby this week, “There's nothing illegal or immoral about the NRA supporting NASCAR, but they're wasting money if they think they are going to persuade Americans that their opposition to sensible gun violence measures is justified. 

"Making sure there are no more Newtowns won't depend on racing sponsorships,” said Blumenthal. “I hope Americans will make decisions about gun violence based on real-life evidence, not advertisements." 

The NRA apparently disagrees, as evidenced by their decision to spend a reported $1 million dollars to sponsor the “NRA 500.”

Ironically, Gossage took action this week to insulate drivers and race teams from potential anti-NRA backlash, announcing that the winner of the “NRA 500” will not be required to don a cowboy hat and fire a pair of six-shooters in Victory Lane, as they have in the past.

"I don't want to affect some sponsor somewhere that says, 'I didn't want that picture. I didn't want my driver with a gun in his hand,’” said Gossage to USA TODAY Sports. "Even though it's a cap gun, I don't want to hurt anyone's sponsorship."

Apparently Gossage does get it, after all.


  1. Great take on the issue. I think if Newtown shooting hadn't occurred, I don't think this would've gotten much attention. However, I am in the "Anti-NRA" crowd. I know that Bass Pro Shops sells lots of guns, and I could care less if they or the NRA sponsors a sporting event. They are free to do whatever they want with their money. And, TMS, being a business venue, is more than willing to take that money. It's called BUSINESS.

  2. Bass Pro Shops have been a long time sponsor, yes. And, we all know they sell guns, but they are not out in front promoting guns like military style weapons and demanding large capacity clips, etc. They are promoting hunting, fishing and outdoor family sports. Big difference than bat crap crazy Wayne LaPerrie! I totally agree with Dave Zirin about the disingenuousness of Mr. Gossage. And, I am personally disappointed in Bruton Smith, Eddie Gosssge and NASCAR for this stunt. And hope that any monies made from this go directly to the victims of Sandy Hook. I am personally rethinking my participation in NACSCAR events by not attending Dover, Richmond and Daytona.
    And, I will definitely not watch this Texas race!
    Just my humble opinion!

    1. NASCAR has nothing to do with it Nancy. They do not control anything at the TMS.

    2. Then Adios! Can't exactly call you a fan since something as trivial as this prevents you from attending a race or watching it on TV. By the way Remington has sponsored some NASCAR drivers too.

    3. Anonymous12:56 AM

      I totally agree Nancy! When I think of Bass Pro Shops, the first thing I think of is boating, fishing...not guns. That is the difference between their sponsorship versus the NRA. I am very disappointed that Nascar has taken this step backwards. Are the $$$$ worth the backlash that will come from this? This is "political" plain and simple and you can say it is business all you want, but even the best of businesses turn down opportunities. This is one opportunity that should have not even considered-JMO! I also will not be watching the Texas race as well as many of my family and friends. I defend Nascar on so many levels to people that say "it is so redneck". The NRA sponsorship will make that comment a hard one to fight for the Texas race. Hope the million bucks is worth all the afterfall of this event-JMO

  3. Jim Brown1:11 PM

    Well put Moody.I would not want anything to do with the media in this day and age.Everybody has to be so P.C.any word or sound bite is blown up by 1 group or another.No matter what you say or do PO's somebody in some way you can have it

  4. Anonymous2:03 PM

    The NRA has every right to sponsor this race. Gossage has every right to take the money. I have every right not to watch or listen to this particular race. I'll hear of the results the next day hoping my driver(s) did well.

  5. Once again, Mr Moody, you are spot on. While I detest a lot of the babble spouted by the NRA NASCAR has allowed politics at races for a long time. It irritates the hell out of me during the prerace program at Bristol when local/state candidates parade across stage espousing their greatness to the mostly out of state attendees. Gossage is no different than any other promoter/owner... it's all about the money.
    For all we know next year's Daytona 500 could be the Always Maxipad 500. How would that set with the male crowd?
    Point is, you will never, EVER please everyone and as a fan I have the option of supporting race or car sponsors or not. In the case of the NRA I choose not.

  6. To Eddie Gossage, it is sports marketing. It may be purposeful blinders that he might not be so willing to remove for an organization like NAMBLA, but he's not wrong. Not from his perspective as a promoter. I don't care if NRA sponsors he event. I hope they insert their presence in a tame and reasonable manner. If they don't, no surprise. The one thing I will care about is that the NRA doesn't try to the TMS victory lane celebration and bastardize it for their cause.

  7. I do think there is a tone set when a race track aligns itself with a political organization like the NRA. Maybe Dover can host the Planned Parenthood 300. Maybe an NRA sponsored event in Texas makes perfect sense, but it makes me uncomfortable. I find that these types of sponsors leave a more negative impression on me than when the event is sponsored by a company or product I don't like.

  8. Just a reminder for everyone. Opinions are welcome here, but name calling and backbiting are not. A handful of posts have been rejected because of this, so please make your case without insulting the opinions of others.

    1. If your response does not appear here, it is because I have deleted it for violating our rules. Re-posting it 34 more times will do you no good. It takes two minutes to post, and it takes me two seconds to decline it.

  9. Anonymous4:13 PM

    As terrible as these shootings are taking guns away from law abiding citizens will not prevent them. Criminals will always find a way to get their hands on guns no matter what the law says. Remember they are criminals! Another point is everyone of these disgusting shootings happened in a gun free zone. Why? Because the criminal knows he will not be confronted with an armed citizen. Lets not loose our freedoms over this lets look at a better way to keep these criminals from being able to do these unspeakable acts. Remember if the law abiding citizens loose their right to defend themselves the criminals will still have theirs. Judge Borg said many years ago there was enough illegal guns on the streets to supply the criminals for 200 years and no laws will stop this because once again the criminals are not law abiding citizens.

  10. Anonymous4:13 PM

    Racing is racing, sponsorship is sponsorship, I may or may not agree with the purpose or goal of the NRA, but they like any other individual or corporation have the right to do with their money as they see fit. It already has created a lot of buzz in the media and among individuals who are either for or against guns and what has recently happened in Sandy Hook and Colorado and too many other places. The forum where they choose to expose themselves is their business; it will not ever affect my enjoyment of NASCAR, nor will any other sponsor at any other race. I make the choice to support whatever NASCAR sponsors I choose. IT IS CALLED FREEDOM AND IT IS THE AMERICAN WAY!!!

  11. Anonymous4:29 PM

    This really comes down to the bill of rights and the two most important of them all. The first and the second amendments cover this subject completely no further comments are needed

  12. Anonymous5:19 PM

    I think that no matter what side of the debate you are on, we should all take a step back and analyze the fervor in which we approach this subject. Like a previous post mentioned-without the Sandy hook incident it wouldn't be an issue. Without the incident at daytona this year, we wouldn't all be screaming for Nascar to "do something." Once again, it wouldn't be an issue. Whether blood thirsty for "change" or peace of mind, it is up to us to remind ourselves that as Americans it is our resolve that makes us strong and NOT our fear-based knee-jerk reactions to traumatic events. Nowhere should our heavy hands be confused with the a cure for our heavy hearts.

    - B. Fulton
    Minneapolis, MN

  13. Anonymous5:41 PM

    Thanks Dave for making this issue clearer to some of us who get so emotional about an emotional issue. My husband and I (retired teachers, but gun owners) keep debating what should or should not be done. The radicals on each side keep trying to influence everything and, as you have pointed out here and on your program, they cannot represent most people. The grey area is so large and needs to be explored. We will work it out because that is what we do in America. Thanks again for being a voice for reason.

  14. Great job being reasonable.Thank heaven someone can be

  15. Anonymous7:37 AM

    In all my years of following races (and sports in general), NEVER have I cared who sponsored the race. I know it just represents the fact that some company decided to pay (waste) a huge amount of money to have their name associated with an event or venue. What a stupid thing to worry about and cause so much debate.

  16. Robert G.8:13 AM

    I agree that NRA as a legal entity has a right to sponsor a race and NASCAR has the right to do business with them.
    But I don't think we would ever see a Penthouse or Playboy 500. Because NASCAR does not want to do business with them.
    This means that NASCAR is doing a value judgement when it comes to sponsors.
    Therefore, people also have the right to be upset with who NASCAR chooses as a sponsor.

  17. One of the major problems with NASCAR these days is that the coverage anymore is about everything but the racing. And worse yet is that everything has to politically correct. Here we are debating whether we approve of a sponsor, or not. Personally. being a real oldtimer, I liked it when it was the just plain old Southern 500, World 600, Rebel 400, Mason-Dixon 500 etc. I've never, ever bought a product because they sponsored a race. I have supported race team sponsors because they sponored the teams and drivers.

    In the case of NRA, I can tell you this. They borycotted the largest outdoor show in the northeast, a show that draws in excess of 300,000 people, in Harrisburg, Pa. last month. They show has around 1200 exhibitors. They cancelled the show. Don't underate the power of this group. I am not pro or con on the gun issue. I truly believe people are the problem, not guns. The fans have shown NASCAR and the track owners the way to big profits don't complain because they have become greedy. And in these days of tough economic times with sponsorship dollars ebbing you can't blame everyone involoved with the sport taking any money they can. I'd suggest you boycott the sponsor, and email them your displeasure, not the racetrack because you are hurting the sport in the long term.

  18. Anonymous2:01 PM

    I don't care if it's called Billy Bob's Taco 500 just as long as the race itself is fair enough to waste my time watching. Take the money and use it to further the fabulous Gen-6 car and give us a good race.

  19. Anonymous2:24 PM

    I couldnt care less who sponsors a race. If PETA put up a million $$$ got for it! I cant stand this organization but bet your bottom dollar I will still watch the race. People need to lighten up get a life and simply thinking a sponsor ship of a race is a kin to the end of the world and game changer is OBSURD my friends.

  20. Anonymous3:26 PM

    You anti NRA GUYS ARE A BUNCH OF IDIOTS. You can't see the light when it's in your face. This whole gun debate has nothing to do with hunting. The guns we have now are the only thing keeping any of our freedoms. If we loose our guns it's over. The USA is going down the tubes now and you liberal idiots are the cause. Remember how the chinese government shot down those college kids 20 years ago just for protesting for basic human rights.
    Their federal government shot them down like dogs. Unarmed college kids. All this gun crap is for one thing, to disarm the public and take control. Same thing happened in Germany, hitler disarmed the public and almost ruled the world. Why dont you stupid people read history. those who don't are doomed to repeat it.

    1. Anonymous10:04 AM

      I see the black helicopters a commin'....

      Paranoia is not healthy

  21. Anonymous10:37 PM

    Ever since I barehanded disarmed a shotgun toting jerk trying to rob me in my own home I have promoted giving our honorably discharged trained and licensed professional killers a gun, ammo, and lifetime license to carry anywhere. I'm honorably discharged since 1970. I like enjoying the tools I was trained with and licensed to use. I had to use those tools a few times so that I could be here today to enjoy what I please. They bring back fond memories. I'm not going to ignore a race just because I don't like the sponsor. How trivial of those that do.
    I think what quite a few people don't want to look at is each one's individual moral responsibilities as parants and members of our society.
    I liked your article Mr. Moody and appreciate your non-pc common sense. Please keep up your good work.
    David Kelley a clam digger from New England

  22. Anonymous11:41 AM

    Dave moody you rock brother!!! Keep up the good work.