Most of NASCAR Takes a Stand, Will Everyone Follow?
It has been a long and winding road filled with largely empty statements and gestures, but I think NASCAR finally gets it.
After reveling and embracing its largely Deep South and often questionable roots, NASCAR has finally shown its entered the 21st Century and wants to put its past behind it.
For lack of a better way to put it, the sport has not always willingly been associated with the stereotypical Southern Racist--a label that some could and would argue did not represent the fanbase or people as a whole, yet it was the image many people outside the South had.
There have been previous attempts and inclusion and diversity amongst the racers and teams and efforts made to quell the Confederate and Racist imagery that sometimes reared their ugly heads at events. For the most part, those efforts did not change much.
As Sport---and hopefully the world begins to finally face their racist past, we are witnessing what you could easily call an awakening for NASCAR.
This "Awakening" can trace itself to one of the sports younger and most vocal drivers, 26-year old Bubba Wallace. Wallace, a super-talented driver from Mobile, Alabama, happens to be black.
Wallace has already through his Social Media platforms and his actions has affected a monumental change in Stock Car Racing. His team owner, The King himself, Richard Petty has thrown his support behind Wallace, who drove just a couple weeks ago a car painted with Black Lives Matter on it.
As important as that statement and NASCAR's move to try eliminating Confederate Flags at their events, there's still a long, long way to go. It became evident as the Sport moved to one of its highest profile events---at the Talledega Super Speedway.
It's there where we are reminded of the work still to be done. Confederate Flags were heavily displayed in the Talladega parking area where fans congregated as only a limited amount were able to actually go in.
As someone raised largely in the South images like this are still commonplace, albeit less than they once were. But the further away you get from cities, the more you see things like this. I don't and won't blanket Southerns by generalizing like so many others that our part of the Universe is populated by racists and rednecks because it flat out is not true.
But they do exist and can often be frighteningly vocal.
And it was Talladega where someone decided to make a very deliberate threat to Wallace by placing a noose in his team garage. The noose was quickly removed and an FBI and Police Investigation has been started to try and find out who did it.
As bad as some of the fans may be, it is very highly unlikely a fan was able to do this due to lack of access to the pit and garage area. Which unfortunately means it was either a track worker, team support personnel or a fellow driver. All of which are bad looks. Really bad.
The encouraging thing: Seeing the unquestioned support Wallace got at the start of the Rain Delayed Race by his fellow drivers.
Investigators will eventually track down who made the threat to Wallace and the threat to his sport. The person who did it will likely pay a very stiff penalty and they should.
By no means am I saying NASCAR is out of the woods when it comes to behavior like this--but they're finally off to a good start. There are generations upon generations of people who still can't quite let go of the past and come to the realization the color of one's skin does not determine who the person is and it never has.
NASCAR and its fans still have a long way to go to get to the finish line. The path may not be straightforward and much like this weeks events, likely will hit some speed bumps. But my hat is off to the stewards of the Sport for taking the right stand and not backing down this time.
Fighting the good...and long fight on this is clearly the right thing to do. For a sport that peaked in popularity over a decade ago, its an opportunity to open its doors even wider to a new fan base who may help them regain some of that lost ground.
What's even more encouraging, that NASCAR may have found its newest hero: One Mr. Bubba Wallace....