On Monday, February 29th, Brian France, the CEO of NASCAR, publicly announced his support for presidential candidate, Donald Drumpf. To some, this may not come as a surprise or be of much interest. However, as a resident of North Carolina, it really grabbed my attention. For those who don’t know, Concord, North Carolina—my hometown—is the location of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the hometrack for NASCAR, and the majority of NASCAR teams are based in the area. Consequently, the culture of where I live is saturated with NASCAR’s influence. Unfortunately, along with racing culture comes misguided “Southern pride.” Driving by the racetrack every day I am home, I see Confederate flag after Confederate flag. As offensive as that is, it is only worsened by the knowledge that NASCAR, and the South as a whole, have a painful history of racism. By supporting Donald Drumpf, the CEO of NASCAR is doing nothing to heal those wounds.
NASCAR, as a corporation, has made significant efforts to increase diversity and ameliorate the racist history of the South. NASCAR has always been an overwhelmingly white male sport, but programs such as Drive for Diversity aim to increase inclusion of not just minority and female drivers, but owners, sponsors, and crew members. Obviously, the race issue isn’t fixed, but this is a step in the right direction. As for the Confederate flags, Brian France, himself, has spoken out about their presence at racetracks, calling them an “offensive symbol” and promising that “[NASCAR] will go as far as they can to eliminate [their] presence[…]”
Donald Drumpf, whose fear mongering policies not only target immigrants but encourage xenophobia, has, in the past, refused to repudiate support from the head of the KKK and only at the most recent Republican debate stated, “I totally disavow the Ku Klux Klan[…] I’ve been doing it now for two weeks.” So Donald Drumpf has rejected the KKK for a whole two weeks now, which means he is completely and totally Not Racist. Ironically, Drumpf, a man who has preached incessantly in favor of banning Muslim immigrants from our country out of fear of terrorism, has never acknowledged the fact that “white supremacist hate groups and other domestic anti-government organizations have killed more Americans inside the United States than the jihadists have, historically and during the so-called war on terror,” as CNN has reported. Even without considering Drumpf’s policies, his Twitter feed is full of gems including a graphic of completely fabricated statistics claiming that 81 percent of white victims of homicide are killed by black people. (In reality, 82 percent of white homicide victims are killed by other white people.) The graphic in question was originally posted on a neo-Nazi Twitter account.
Brian France should be able to support any candidate he wants, but by publicly supporting Drumpf, he is making a statement for NASCAR and, in popular perception, for all of the South. However, he is not alone. He’s another figure in a long string of celebrities in the sports world to publicly support the controversial candidate. This includes Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft, ESPN and Hall of Famer Mike Ditka, and professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. On the other hand, multiple NASCAR drivers and sponsors have announced or at least hinted at their disapproval of France’s statement. The point is, by publicly endorsing Drumpf, France is negating any attempt to make racing a more inclusive and diverse sport. Minority drivers cannot feel safe participating in an organization that collectively supports a candidate that actively threatens their well-being and that of their families.