Tuesday, May 13, 2014

COMMENTARY: Stop Dangling The Charity Carrot

Well, here we go again.

In the last few days, there have been a handful of announcements from various sponsors promising that if their driver gets voted into Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All Star Race, they will make a generous contribution to the charity of their choice.

At first glance, there’s not much to dislike about that. NASCAR fans get to vote for their favorite driver, while also doing something nice for a needy group, organization or cause. Bubbling just beneath the surface, however, lies the disturbing truth.

Read carefully and you’ll see that the charitable contribution is made only after “Driver A” is voted into the NASCAR Sprint All Star Race, providing his/her sponsor with tens of thousands of dollars in free publicity and television airtime.

That’s not charity, my friends. That’s self-enrichment.

Sadly, this whole "Vote for me and I’ll do something nice” idea is nothing new. Sponsors have now been attempting to bolster their driver’s All Star chances in this manner for more than a decade. It’s gotten to the point where drivers now admit – off the record, of course – that a charity based, feel-good campaign is now necessary, if they truly hope to prevail in the annual All Star Fan Vote.

I pray that’s not true. But I fear they may be right.

Should NASCAR’s All-Star selection process really be based upon how much money someone donates to charity? Or should that selection depend simply on a driver’s popularity with the fans, and his/her performance on the race track?

The answer, I think, is pretty obvious.

No matter how they attempt to spin it, the truth is that sponsors who dangle the charity carrot in front of fans do so primarily for their own gain. They attempt to portray themselves as charitable, magnanimous and giving, while enriching mainly themselves.

That’s coercion at best, pure bribery at the worst. And it’s not what the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is supposed to be about.

If sponsors are really serious about doing something good for charity -- with no regard for their own corporate gain -- they can make a donation right now, with no strings attached. Instead, they choose to twist the collective arm of NASCAR Nation by saying, “Give us what we want, and we’ll help out the sick little children.”

That’s unconscionable, in my opinion.

All this week, you can vote for your favorite driver at NASCAR.com. You can also go online and make a contribution to your favorite charity. I encourage you to do both.

Just don’t confuse the two.


  1. Phillip2:52 PM

    Great article, on the money.

  2. Anonymous5:11 PM

    Spot on Dave....thank you for calling a spade a spade, and for not confusing the difference.

  3. Rene' K.5:39 PM

    Any chance they get for the best publicity. Your right on with only benefiting themselves not the charity.

  4. Kim L.8:44 PM

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  5. I'd go even farther. Dangling the charity or not, I think it is in poor taste to ask the fans to vote for their driver. It is about popularity, and asking for votes in a popularity contest is gauche.

  6. Anonymous12:36 PM

    Excellent point. Worse, the whole concept of voting a driver into the allstar race based solely on popularity cheapens the whole event. As an analogy, if the NFL did this then Tim Tebow would have made the Probowl.
    If there is to be a fan vote then there should be some minimum requirement for those on the ballot, like; a second place finish in the previous or current year (with the idea that the driver just missed qualifying, or maybe even a past championship or anyone with 10+ career Sprint Cup wins. Something other than popularity.

    I remember a few years ago (2005 or 2006) when Kerry Earnhardt was running some races in the Cup series and he was on the ballot. He would have won the fan vote but he wrecked in the first race and therefore was not eligible. The thing was that he had only ran 3 races the previous year. So the fan vote rewards popularity not performance if you don't limit those eligible to be voted on based on some quantifiable performance basis.

    BTW, if anyone gives me a million dollars I will donate $500,000 to charity.

  7. Anonymous3:18 PM

    The first one that I remember was when Kyle Petty was voted in after Adam died. That was a special one. But every one after that has been pretty tasteless. I think NASCAR needs to put a stop to it. Think about it. "Company A" promises to feed a million children if driver Jim gets voted into the race..... the flip side is the same company won't bother to feed those children if Jim misses the race. Not sure I'd deal with Company A after a decision like that.

  8. Anonymous8:56 PM

    I suspect that the same type of situation may be with the troops getting free tickets.
    Since attendance has been down this has become a regular deal. Nothing does me more good to see our service personnel honored but I wonder if the promoters are taking a tax break for face value of their "donations".