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NBA legend Michael Jordan is taking his social activism to a new level, announcing that he has formed a new NASCAR team with racing star Denny Hamlin.
News of the basketball icon’s partnership with Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, was shared in a news release by the NBA noting that the duo decided to add Bubba Wallace, the only black driver at the sport’s top level, who “signed a multi-year deal to drive for the yet-to-be-named, single car team.”
Jordan, who is the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets NBA franchise, will be the principal owner of the new team.
“With the completed purchase of a NASCAR team charter from Germain Racing, Jordan becomes the first Black majority owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR’s premier series since NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott owned and raced his own car from the 1960s into the early 1970s,” the press release stated.
Jordan noted NASCAR’s embrace of “social change” and his own efforts to “combat systemic racism” in a statement.
“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said. “The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.”
“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners,” he added. “The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 22, 2020
In June, the 57-year-old MVP and his brand pledged to donate $100 million over 10 years to groups “dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.” After boycott threats by several teams last month, the NBA and NBA Players Association announced the launch of a new social justice coalition to focus on a “broad range of issues, including increased access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.”
Hamlin, who will continue to race the No. 11 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, remarked on social media that choosing Wallace as the new team’s first driver was an “easy” decision.
“I’m excited to announce MJ and I are starting a new, single car @NASCAR Cup Series Team for 2021. Deciding on a driver was easy – it had to be @BubbaWallace,” he tweeted Monday.
“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin said in a statement. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do that.”
“Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him,” he added.
Wallace responded in a tweet saying that it was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” and that he was “super pumped to begin this adventure.”
This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career. I’m grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) September 22, 2020
The 26-year-old is a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, driving a race car painted with the slogan and pushing NASCAR to ban the display of the Confederate flag at its events. In June, Wallace made headlines when it was reported that a “noose” had been placed in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway. Drivers and crews rallied in a show of support behind Wallace and his car ahead of another race as the controversy sparked heated reactions.
However, an FBI investigation concluded that the alleged noose was actually a pull-down rope on the overhead door which had been in place since the 2019 Talladega race.
Wallace seemed to take a jab at his critics on Tuesday.
And they thought I was done after this year…
Goodnight peeps!🤘🏾 pic.twitter.com/s52aEU3woL
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) September 22, 2020
Wallace announced earlier this month that he was parting ways with Richard Petty Motorsports.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) September 10, 2020
“I believe it’s time for someone else to take the reins of the No. 43” car, he said, adding that he was looking to finish the 2020 season on a “high note.”
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