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NASCAR moves to distance from ‘Let’s go, Brandon’ chant, threatens action over logo use

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The president of NASCAR criticized the motor sports’ association with the anti-President Biden chant “Let’s Go, Brandon” that is being utilized around the country as a cleaner version of a derogatory insult.

On Friday, NASCAR chief Steve Phelps noted that the country’s top motorsports franchise is not interested in being associated with political issues or parties “on the left or the right.”

In addition, Phelps made clear the franchise will take legal action against anyone or any entity tying the phrase to NASCAR’s trademarked logo and merchandise after retired MLB star Lenny Dykstra took to Twitter last week to post a photo of a man who was eating breakfast at a New Jersey hotel dressed in a black “Let’s Go, Brandon” shirt with the motorsport’s trademarked colored bars.

“We will pursue whoever (is using logos) and get that stuff,” said Phelps during a press conference at Phoenix Raceway. “That’s not OK. It’s not OK that you’re using our trademarks illegally, regardless of whether we agree with what the position is.”

The phrase came into being following an interview between NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast and NASCAR driver Brandon Brown after he won his first career race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama last month at the Xfinity Series. During the interview, fans in nearby stands could be heard yelling, “F**k Joe Biden!” — which itself has become a popular phrase at sporting events and other venues in recent months — but Stavast, wearing a headset at the time, interpreted the chant to be “Let’s Go, Brandon!”

Critics of the president on the right and left have latched onto both phrases, though most mainstream outlets are characterizing them strictly as anti-Biden criticism from conservatives and Republicans.

“It’s an unfortunate situation and I feel for Brandon, I feel for Kelli,” Phelps said of the incident. “I think, unfortunately, it speaks to the state of where we are as a country. We do not want to associate ourselves with politics, the left or the right.”

In fact, if the bulk of NASCAR’s followers have a political bent it would be towards Republicans and conservative values. More recently, then-President Donald Trump served as the honorary race starter at the Daytona 500 last year “and the sold-out February crowd made NASCAR’s Super Bowl feel like a campaign rally until his plane flew over the Florida speedway after his command to start the engines,” NBC News reported.

In addition, several drivers and their families took pictures with Trump before the race. Also, in early 2016 as Trump’s first presidential campaign ramped up, current Cup champ Chase Elliot was among a few drivers who went to a rally in Georgia with Brian France, then the chairman of NASCAR. Several in that group, including the sport’s most popular driver, went on stage and spoke at the event.

Since then, however, the motorsport has tilted left, taking high-profile positions on several social justice issues following the death of George Floyd in May 2020. That included banning the display of Confederate flags at events following a request from the sport’s only full-time black driver, Bubba Wallace, who began wearing a shirt on pit road emblazoned with “I Can’t Breathe” and used a Black Lives Matter paint scheme for one race.

Phelps went on to say that the sport is respectful of the office of the presidency.

“Do we like the fact that it kind of started with NASCAR and then is gaining ground out elsewhere? No, we’re not happy about that,” he said.

Jon Dougherty

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