Hear from Steve Phelps, Jimmie Johnson and Bubba Wallace on the moments leading up to the banning of the Confederate flag
The Confederate flag was born into NASCAR racing on the sports location. As the sport started in the South, it became the only sport were Confederate flags were common space.
Since, the sport has grown well outside of the South. It’s a worldwide brand with fans all over the globe.
Steve Phelps reflected on the moment via the ESPN E60 special, “I just look at it as a continuum. You’re on this path, continuing to be more diverse, inclusive and welcoming. We were doing that. And then, we kept getting to this impediment, and that was the Confederate flag.”
NASCAR’s only black driver eventually spoke up on the issue regarding the flag.
Multiple times, Bubba Wallace has stated that he wasn’t bothered by the Confederate flag. However, it does bother others, and that was his point when he encouraged NASCAR to ban the flag in May 2020.
“I never felt like the Confederate flag should fly at a sporting event,” 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson stated. “It really symbolizes a lot of pain, in an era and time when there’s a ton of pain. I’ve never understood why it would be at a race track. You don’t see it at a baseball stadium, a football stadium. To me, it was really wild to see it.”
NASCAR previously spoke on the Confederate flag. In 2015, they encouraged fans not to bring the flag but it wasn’t a ban.
Bubba Wallace comments on encouraging the ban of the Confederate flag
“It never offended me, seeing the flag. I didn’t know the history behind it. I didn’t take the time to go through it and want to understand it.”
“But then, reading why people hate it so much. What is this Confederate flag about? Oh ok, yeah. This is pretty bad,” Wallace said as he looked up the history.
“Reading, like NASCAR was evolving. But, ‘I don’t care what they do or say, I’m not coming back because of the Confederate flag.’ That was a lot of those tweets from a lot of different people.”
“I’m like, ‘That is so easy to change.”
NASCAR bans the flag
Soon after Phelps’ speech at Atlanta, Wallace did an interview with CNN. He was asked how the sport could be more inclusive. His immediate answer called for a ban on the Confederate flag.
2 days later, NASCAR banned the flag.
“I think for us as a sport, we were ready, to do that” Phelps stated. “I think our country was ready for us to do that. Forces that were happening in this country gave NASCAR permission to be bold and brave to say, ‘You know what? This is not going to be part of our future.”
Phelps added, “It has nothing to do with turning your back to your existing fan base. But, if we’re going to be welcoming and inclusive, it can’t be on our property. That’s what the ban of the flag was and that’s why it was so important.”
Bubba Wallace proud of NASCAR for banning the flag
Wallace added, “It shows that we’re not messing around. It shows that NASCAR is listening and they’re understanding. Which is what we’ve been asking for.”
“A lot of people from all races, were like, ‘Absolutely, Amen to that.’ “
“And then, you had the ones that were stuck in their ways, ‘This is BS. You’re bringing politics into NASCAR.’ “
Wallace added, “People want to make it political, when it’s just being a decent human. Treating everybody equal is not political. But, when the Black guy says it, it’s political. Oh well.”