NASCAR goes full BLM, allows kneeling during anthem, pays tribute to black driver Bubba Wallace

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NASCAR fans, drivers, and pit crew put on a show of support for the sport’s only black Cup driver, Bubba Wallace, on Monday ahead of a race in Talladega Superspeedway after a noose was reportedly discovered in his team garage on Sunday.

Fox News reported that Wallace drove his No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro to the end of pit row, where team owner and driving legend Richard Petty, 82, embraced him.

Petty, who has won more NASCAR races than anyone else in the history of the sport, was not planning to attend the race due to concerns over the lingering coronavirus.

A member of the Petty racing team reportedly found the noose in the team’s garage area a day before the race. The incident was reported to the FBI, which is investigating it as a possible hate crime.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps announced that whoever was responsible will get a lifetime ban from the sport. The incident sparked additional concerns because garage areas are secured and only NASCAR drivers and pit crew are allowed in.

“Today’s despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism,” Wallace said in a statement posted online.

“Together our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone,” adding, “we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate.”

The show of support from drivers, crew and fans on Monday comes after a series of decisions and actions taken by NASCAR as an organization in recent weeks to express support for the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice.

Ahead of a race in Atlanta earlier this month, officials lifted a rule imploring drivers and crew to stand with their hand over their hearts during the playing of the National Anthem, becoming the latest professional U.S. sports organization to do so.

Before the change, drivers and crew chiefs were given a handout during pre-race meetings that included the following:

DRIVERS AND CREW CHIEFS, please advise all your Team members: Conduct during the playing of the National Anthem, taken from the US Flag Code. When the flag is displayed – all persons should face and stand at attention with their right hand over their heart – persons should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart – when the flag is not displayed – all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

That paragraph has since been eliminated from the handouts.

As reported by NBC Sports, following the rule change, NASCAR official Kirk Price, who is black, knelt and saluted the flag during the playing of the anthem ahead of the Cup race in Atlanta June 7. Adam Stern, a reporter for Sports Business Journal, tweeted a photo of Price kneeling, fist raised in the air.

In an interview with the Charlotte Observer Price, who served in the U.S. Army for three years on active duty, said, “I come from humble beginnings and I believe in humble protesting.”

“All I could think about, of course, is Mr. Floyd and his family,” he said, a reference to George Floyd, who’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police last month sparked riots and demonstrations around the country. “As well as the others that have passed from brutality from police and hostility in the world.”

“I wasn’t thinking about anybody else,” Price said. “I’m 49 years old and I’ve already witnessed things through what’s going on in the world as we speak.”

“I could only think about ‘what can I do to make the world a better place?’” he continued. “To where this gets out to where people can understand?”

The sport also banned the display of Confederate flags at races, which have been fixtures at NASCAR events for decades, after Wallace called for the ban a few days earlier.

As for the noose, not everyone is convinced it is real. Some suspect a “Jussie Smollett”-type of rouse, suggesting that Wallace himself may have planted it.


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Jon Dougherty

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