Friday, July 03, 2015

COMMENTARY: NASCAR Stands At A Fork In The Road

NASCAR is at a crossroads today, debating the role of the Confederate Flag in both its past and its future.

When 21-year old Dylann Roof opened fire on a bible study group recently, gunning down nine black parishioners in their predominately black South Carolina church, he rekindled a fire that has threatened to consume this nation for more than 160 years. 

NASCAR has not been spared from the flames. In the days following the attack, the sanctioning body has spoken openly of its desire to distance itself from the Confederate Flag. Yesterday, every NASCAR National Series race track signed-off on a statement requesting that fans no longer fly that flag at their venues. That request will be honored by many and ignored by some, forcing many longtime followers to choose between the Rebel Flag and their lifelong love affair with the sport.

The next few months will be difficult for both NASCAR and its fan base. Some longtime fans – and perhaps some new ones – will choose to walk away, rather than take down their flags. They will be missed, but the message they espouse will most certainly not.

It is time for NASCAR to walk the walk, rather than simply talking the talk. Welcoming minority fans with open arms does not work with a sea of “You Are Unwelcome” flags flying overhead. It’s easy to preach about the need for minority drivers and crewmembers in NASCAR, but without black faces in the grandstand, there will never be an appreciable number of black faces in the race cars.

This weekend, Daytona International Speedway will attempt to catch flies with honey, asking – politely at first – for fans to abstain from flying the Confederate Flag. We’ve all heard the adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” but make no mistake about it, if this weekend’s request fails to achieve the desired results, NASCAR and its affiliated speedways will use whatever amount of vinegar it takes to get the job done.

Neither NASCAR nor International Speedway Corporation have any intention of unveiling their shining new Daytona International Speedway in February of 2016 with Rebel flags in the background. They’ll do whatever it takes – asking, begging, cajoling, even invoking an outright ban, if necessary – to rid the sport of what has become a hurtful and divisive symbol.

Our sport has come to a fork in the road, and the direction you choose in coming weeks will determine how your children and grandchildren remember you. More than a generation ago, Governor George Wallace stood on the steps of the Alabama State House and shouted his intolerance to the rooftops with the now-infamous words, "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

Today, more than a half-century later, we find ourselves fighting the same exasperating battle, debating the meaning of a symbol that at various points in our history has been used to both unify and terrify, unite and intimidate. No matter what the Confederate Flag meant in 1860, it has now come to signify hatred and intolerance to a significant portion of our society. The Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and White Supremacist skinheads made sure of that, and not many of us stood up in opposition; then or now.

If NASCAR is ever going to become the all-inclusive sport it aspires to be, there is no longer a place in the sport for divisive symbols. We’ve tolerated exclusionism for far too long, and it should not have taken a 21-year old racist with a high-powered rifle and a taste for blood to bring this issue to the front burner, once and for all. The issue is a hot-topic today, giving NASCAR an opportunity to do what should have been done decades ago, ridding itself of a symbol that has come to signify fear and hate to a significant portion of American society; black and white alike.

If NASCAR ever hopes to shed its longstanding image as a southern, white, male-dominated sport, it must welcome fans of all ages, all races, all genders and orientations. Stock car racing has been “our sport” for far too long.

Now, it must become “ALL our sport.”

Even George Wallace saw the light in the end, apologizing publically for his vile, racist beliefs. If the leading segregationist of his time can change, so can you.

Doing the right thing isn't always easy, or popular. But it's always right. NASCAR is standing at a fork in the road, and it matters which line you're in.

Choose wisely. The world is watching.


  1. Anonymous4:11 PM

    Choose the red flag or the Red, White, and Blue flag. The choice will pave the way to NASCAR's future.

    The ways of old cannot stand. The sport will wither and die if action isn't taken. Chose who don't agree must be left behind.

  2. This isn't about doing the right thing, it's about figuring which way the wind is blowing and going in that direction and piling on.

    How many episodes of Dukes Of Hazard does it take to turn someone into a racist?

    I wonder how many black people were offended by the General Lee?

    What flags people are flying on top of their RV isn't going to determine the future of the sport, whether NASCAR can figure out a way for drivers to pass each other will.

    Ask many Americans what the burqa stands for, and they will say "terrorism", how come NASCAR and the Cup series tracks aren't requesting that people not attend events wearing a burqa?

    1. Actually, what flags are flying in the infield do matter. You don't think that corporate America has a complete butt pucker when the cameras scan across the infield and the Confederate flag is shown? Like it or not, the perception of the Confederate flag to a very large portion of the US is one of a not so pleasant nature. Perception is reality. Fly it at your house, why does it need to be flown at an event, knowing that it is a slap in the face along with a kick in the groin to a great many people.

    2. Anonymous11:26 PM

      My sentiments exactly Andy. Odd how this is suddenly an issue, and NASCAR runs as fast as they can to jump on the political correctness bandwagon.

    3. It's easy to find a way to be "right" about anything. It's America's hobby of late.

      Yeah... you can find a way to be right about the Rebel flag.
      But, you can't find anything "good" in it.

      It's time to be adults and stop believing our own lies.

  3. Anonymous11:27 PM

    People are racists, not a piece of 3' X 5' fabric, free speech = free speech whether we like what people say or not. Being afraid or intimidated by a piece of fabric means the haters have won. This is from a disabled war vet that is a Lakota Sioux and my wife is Maori. I am not intimidated by the American flag and I swore to defend and uphold The Constitution Of The United States Of America against all enemies foreign or domestic, and I would gladly do it again. Stereotyping is stereotyping no matter which side you stand on. So fly the confederate flag or not, it is your choice and your right to do so on your property or wherever it is allowed.

  4. Anonymous5:39 AM

    Wow Dave Moody, just wow...and I don't mean in a good way. Guess you are thrilled with Marcus taking his umbrage with DT and using the weak minded BZF to do his dirty work. Yup a bunch of "men" doing manly things. Don't think so. Another insult to fans painting that flag to mean one thing to all people. The flag did not make that person do it, the hate in his heart did. Put blame where it lies. Not a good week for a Nascar fans that doesn't like his racing (if you call it that these days) served with a lump of stupid politics at it's pandering worse. Shame what is happening to this country.

  5. Anonymous8:59 AM

    It was a pistol, not a rifle the murderer used in South Carolina.

    The politically correct logic in the rest of your article is flawed. NA$CAR had no issues making money using the Rebel flag in the past, and they will do whatever they think will bring them the most revenue in the future.

    The biggest mistake they're making is alienating a large part of their base, and believing they're the only game in town. Eventually another series will come forward and overtake the market, it's just a matter of time.

    The house of cards started to collapse when they stopped releasing attendance figures in 2012. To think that the grandstands will suddenly fill with minorities if the flag is banned is laughable.

  6. Anonymous9:32 AM

    I guess NASCAR needed another excuse other than a lousy product to blame for tumbling interest. This PC boondoggle is it but it will make the drop far more dramatic. Fans won't tolerate being told what to do by the PC police.

  7. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Don't have a confederate flag and have never had the urge to have one, until now. I think NASCAR telling people not to fly the flag will have just make people more likely to fly it. Don't tell people they can't do something when they know it's their right to do so.

  8. Anonymous11:03 AM

    This is the results of nascar selling out it's heritage for bailout money

    1. Anonymous8:01 PM

      Their "heritage" is causing them to become a second tier sport with fleeing sponsors and dwindling core fans.

      Those of you who want for the 'good ole days' are no longer the target audience for the sponsors. They want you to fade into the sunset to allow a new generation to blossom. One that is colorblind.

  9. Anonymous1:40 PM

    I don't foresee NASCAR losing many of it's fans over this issue. This won't be due to fact that anyone believes that NASCAR is doing the right thing but more due to the fact that the vast majority of people who flew that flag meant no harm in doing so. To many, flying that flag simply meant that they were proud to be southern and that they were proud that NASCAR was a southern born sport. It was not the fault of very good and decent southerners that the flag was hijacked by those who choose to hate but, as it turns out, the innocent must always pay the price. What is just as sad is the fact that even if another Confederate flag is never again seen at any NASCAR event, this sport will always be viewed by a majority of people as a "Southern Hillbilly" sport. If I remember correctly even Dave got into a tiff a while back with a sportscaster from a sports network about it.

    1. Michael in SoCal10:59 AM

      To the many who were just proud to be flying that flag, they are woefully uninformed.

      Regarding the second Confederate flag that is the center of debate these days, keep in mind that the creator of that flag, William Thompson, stated: “As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause. … Such a flag…would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as the White Man’s flag. … As a national emblem, it is significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race, and a higher civilization contending against ignorance, infidelity, and barbarism. Another merit in the new flag is, that it bears no resemblance to the now infamous banner of the Yankee vandals.”

  10. Anonymous2:31 PM

    the funny thing is i was reminded the other day i watched an episode of the dukes that cale yarborough was in it his crew chief in this episode was a black gentlemen they talked about nascar threw out the reminded me that that was the first time i was introduced to nascar as a kid.this is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction because of the almighty dollar i truly hope brian france achieves what he sets out to i think theyve lost alot more than theyll ever gain its so sad the greatest sport in the world turning its back on the very people that put them on the map

  11. Why is the Confederate flag the big deal all of a sudden? A kid messed up on Rx med's goes crazy and shoots up a church? This is yet just one more thing to distract the people from what the rest of the government is doing to us, all of the bills that have been passed against us while we're busy looking another way.
    If Dale Earnhardt Sr. was so against the Confederate flag like we've been brain-washed into thinking then why is the #3 displayed in the middle of one of those flags? He approved everything that had his name, number or copyrighted logo's on.
    Dave, educate yourself on what this flag stands for before trying to preach racism.
    I would also like to say at this time that I am offended by your nickname. A Godfather brings to mind a Mafia leader who engages in illegal activities and a cold-blooded murderer.
    You should quit your position as a journalist because of that.

  12. The flag was not offensive to anyone last month, last year or even 10 years ago, so why is it offensive now? Because some racist nutjob with a gun made it so? Well the KKK are often pictured with Old Glory so does that make Old Glory a racist symbol. Of course not. The Confederate Battle Flag is not a racist symbol. If you read your history you would know this. Most of the Southerners did not own slaves. They felt the government was growing too big and getting too much into their lives. They felt the states have the right to govern themselves. That was the compromise made after the Civil War. Did you know Robert E. Lee did not own any slaves and Grant did? Did you know that there were more Irish slaves than African ones? Did you know that the Irish were treated 100 times worse than the African ones due to the fact they were cheaper? The Irish were considered expendable. Kind of blows the theory of racists out of the water doesn't it? The flag itself it not a racist symbol and NASCAR is only acting what is popular now. They are pandering to the PC crowd. If Roof was seen with a teddy bear, would a teddy bear be banned? Of course not. So enough with the battle flag. Also the General Lee in Dukes of Hazard was not a racist show, yet they have the flag on the car. This is just a fad and NASCAR is jumping on the bandwagon. They will jump on another when something else happens. Oh by the way, the world could care less about the Confederate Battle Flag because it means nothing to them. To them it is just another flag. To the southern states it is a part of history. So get off the bandwagon and stop trying to follow the crowd with this nonsense.

    1. Anonymous9:20 AM

      "he flag was not offensive to anyone last month, last year or even 10 years ago,".

      Really? The problem is you see it as your way or the highway. Most rational people see it as a symbol of a traitorous period of one of the worst times of American History. It shouldn't be a flag of pride but a flag of shame. There should only be ONE flag and that is the Stars and Stripes. If you need the other, you don't need to be part of America.

  13. Anonymous9:26 AM

    Keep sipping that Kool Aid.

  14. Anonymous11:02 PM

    Hey Moody, how does it feel to have little or no influence? All week you spewed the NASCAR propaganda because you know where your bread is buttered. Check it out.

    1. Only cause Moody has asked we not name call I won't. If you really think Moody has little influence you need monitor where the public opinion of race fans will be going for next 10 years. Moody is right. I used to fly the Stars and Bars. Very simply, I was wrong. I thought doing so people would see a person vs the flag and I could educate some people. I did. I see now I alienated more. I can find other symbols less offensive and be a better person. Keep at it Moody. I may not go to NASCAR races now as rashly not of the flag being there but so many people who prefer offend others than not fly a piece of cloth. If I do come you will see me flying a stars and bars with the universal not allowed 0 and / over it. You heritage boys fly your flag. I fly mine

  15. Michael in SoCal10:55 AM

    The thing I don't get, and any of you out there defending the confederate flag can chime in here, but why are you celebrating being on the losing side of the Civil War?

    Keep flying that confederate flag - just amend this to the bottom:

  16. The opponents of the Confederate Flag refuse to get it - the "legacy of slavery" was not exclusively a Southern issue; on the contrary the North was almost more vicious in its bigotry both in the 19th century and later. Market forces are what did the most to eliminate segregation, shown in the rapid rise of black living and educational standards before the Civil Rights Act (shown for instance in a 1965 piece in Daedalus by Daniel P. Moynihan). And the fact remains market forces are something politics cannot defeat no matter how hard they try. The Confederate Flag didn't stop integration then and it's not a threat to anyone now because some loser who was also wearing South African and Rhodesian flags opened fire inside a church.

    The notion that the Confederate Flag has been deterring minorities from becoming interesting in racing does not explain the lack of minority participation in Indycar and other forms of racing over the same period of time.