Many of us were disappointed to read today that you have elected to appeal a recent U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision upholding the right of Kerry Earnhardt – eldest son of your late husband, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. – to market homes and home furnishings under the name "The Earnhardt Collection.”
We haven’t heard much from you since the days immediately following the tragic loss of your husband on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500; days where you repeatedly stated how important the support and well-wishes of Dale’s fans had been in helping you and your family cope with your grief.
We grieved along with you in those dark days, mourning the loss of someone we idolized and worshipped, both for his talent behind the wheel and for his ability to remain “one of us.” We still grieve his loss, but we understand that your loss far surpassed ours. We lost our hero that day, you lost your husband.
None of us would presume to compare the two.
We understand your decision to withdraw from the NASCAR community. We understand the conflicting emotions you must certainly feel for a sport that made your husband wealthy and world famous, only to take his life. We understand your reticence to return to the site of Dale’s death, and we understand your inability to maintain a daily presence in sport that took him from you. Racing is clearly no longer part of your life, and we get that.
More difficult to understand, however, is your decision to deny the public -- Dale’s fans – virtually every opportunity to relive and rekindle the memory of his illustrious career. We’ve heard stories of you declining to loan race cars and memorabilia to organizations like the NASCAR Hall Of Fame, who desire only to preserve his memory and introduce the man called “The Intimidator” to new generations of race fans.
Even worse, we hear of the distance – both physical and emotional – that exists between you and Dale’s three eldest children; Kerry, Kelley and Dale, Jr.; as well as the continuing battles over his legacy, his estate and the race team that once bore his name.
It’s as if you believe that locking Dale’s memory behind closed doors – keeping it exclusively to yourself at the exclusion of all others – somehow endears him to us, even more.
Nothing could be further than the truth.
“Cornering the market” by micromanaging his memory and challenging his children’s right to their own last name may keep the cash rolling in, but it diminishes our memory of your husband. It also casts you – his widow and legal representative – in a very poor light. The bitterness you continue to display toward Dale’s children is impossible to defend. More important, it is not what he would have wanted.
If you truly loved Dale – and we know you did – you should also respect his children. Short of that, the least you can do is avoid being a negative influence in their lives. Kerry, Kelley and Dale, Jr. don’t need your help. They're all doing quite nicely on their own, with no apparent assistance from you.
Just don’t spin them out. Let them run their race, while you run yours.
Live and let live.
We assure you, Mrs. Earnhardt, that we are not stupid. We know the difference between the great Dale Earnhardt and others with the same last name. We are capable of differentiating between your late husband and his surviving children, all of whom have made successful names for themselves, both in and out of racing. And no matter what your high-priced attorneys may claim, we understand that Kerry and Rene Earnhardt’s latest business venture has nothing to do with a man who passed away 15 years ago.
We do not see today’s headlines as an attempt on your part to protect The Intimidator’s legacy. We see them as a mean-spirited effort to prevent Dale’s children from using their own name; a name they were born with, and which you merely inherited by marriage. It is their birthright, and you are wrong to deny them that right, based on nothing more than capitalistic greed.
You are an Earnhardt, and always will be. But you are not the only Earnhardt. It is irresponsible and self-serving to insert Dale’s name into a senseless dispute where there are no winners, only losers.
You didn’t ask for our advice, but we will offer it, nonetheless. Perhaps it’s time for you to invest as much time and energy to supporting your late husband’s children – all of them – as you do to safeguarding his money. Perhaps then, we will once again be free to remember him (and you) as fondly as you both deserve.
Rest assured that we will never forget Dale, no matter how closely you guard every trophy and trinket.