NASCAR drivers comment on changes
Three years ago, NFL players kneeled during the National Anthem to bring awareness to a racial issue with police.
Kneeling in NASCAR was unheard of. And, for many in the industry, it was likely to bring consequences.
Back in 2017, multiple team owners commented on kneeling.
Richard Petty (2017): What would Richard Childress do for an employee that kneels? “Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over. I told them anyone who works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people have gave their lives for it. This is America,” the NASCAR team owner responded.
Richard Petty (2017): “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States,” Richard Petty stated in comments reported by the AP.
Team Penske (2017): “It’s an issue we’ve never faced and don’t anticipate facing,” stated a rep for Team Penske.
At the same time, NASCAR was praised by the President of the United States for standing during the National Anthem.
Donald Trump (2017): “So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag – they said it loud and clear!”
Here we are in an upside down world.
Back in April, Kyle Larson used the n-word will attempting to take to his personal spotter. Instead, that audio was sent over a public channel for thousands of fans and 60 other drivers to hear.
Larson was suspended by NASCAR within a day. Sponsors soon dropped him and Chip Ganassi Racing was forced to fire their superstar driver.
Last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the President of NASCAR announced a need for change. He didn’t exclude the sport itself from leading the change.
Days later, Bubba Wallace commented on CNN that the next step for NASCAR to take would be to remove the Confederate flag. Days later, NASCAR did just that, banning the flag from NASCAR events and tracks.
Wallace is currently driving for Richard Petty Motorsports. On Wednesday, the driver fielded a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville Speedway.
Also at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a NASCAR official was seen kneeling during the National Anthem.
But, kneeling is now allowed. A previous rule prevented NASCAR members from kneeling during the National Anthem.
NASCAR rule book on kneeling (removed)
The rule book formerly read:
“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.”
Again, the lines above have been removed. This opens the door for NASCAR members to protest during the National Anthem.
How has the NASCAR community reacted to all the changes?
For the vast majority, they hate it. I’ve never seen so many angry reactions and email in a row.
That’s not just the fans. Some drivers aren’t on board with the rapid change and new political stance. Others, feel it’s a change for the better.
Ray Ciccarelli: “Well its been a fun ride and dream come true but if this is the direction NASCAR is headed we will not participate after 2020 season is over, i don’t believe in kneeling during Anthem nor taken ppl right to fly what ever flag they love.”
Brad Keselowski: “I only salute one flag and that’s America’s,” said the Team Penske driver. “I recognize that that flag might mean something different to different people, but it doesn’t mean United States of America to me.”
Keselowski added, “But I’m not gonna tell people they need to get rid of it. That’s not my right either. But I certainly don’t salute it or respect it or probably anyone else who feels the same way. But, at the end of the day, it’s not our call.”
Ryan Blaney: “As far as the Confederate flags go, they had that trade your flag in, and I think everyone has their beliefs,” explained Blaney. “It’s tough, but I don’t really enjoy it because sometimes I feel like the people that wave them mean the negative when they wave them, and that’s not cool.
Blaney added, “Yeah, I’d love to not see them at the race track, honestly, because it doesn’t make everyone comfortable, so that’s kind of where I stand on that. Bring your 50 stars flag; I think that would be way better.”