Flag ban fallout: Now comes the tricky part for NASCAR
Reese Witherspoon tweeted a high-five emoji for her A-List label that NASCAR has banned the Confederate flag.
NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag from its races and venues made headlines, and stars like Witherspoon and New Orleans Saints who ran back Alvin Kamara quickly praised the stock car series for being one of them Symbol that had long been associated with slavery and racism.
Kamara tweeted as the laps ended - he asked NASCAR to send him a car so he could go for a spin - and the sport suddenly had a lot of new, energetic fans.
Now comes the hard part.
In a few days, NASCAR will be faced with a daunting question: How can the ban be enforced on its extensive, noisy routes as soon as the fans return and the campers set up their campers for racing weekends? Around 1,000 military personnel are allowed to race near Miami on Sunday and are the first fans at a NASCAR event since the pandemic that ended the sport in March.
The enforcement question is much more likely to be a problem when the series hosts races in Talladega, Alabama from June 20-21, where up to 5,000 fans are expected. Flags are a common sight on the super speedway in the heart of NASCAR South Base. NASCAR will work to develop enforcement protocols, although it is not known where the ban ends? Is security charged to monitor every bikini with a Rebel flag string or to scrape off all the car stickers?
Take off your shirt or else!
"It will certainly be a challenge. We will try to do it right, ”Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's Executive Vice President, told SiriusXM on Thursday. “We'll do it the way we do today by letting people know: 'Hey, we're all proud, we're all America, raise your US flag, raise your driver flags and get in the lane. 'But if we see something on the trail, we will react and we will do it. More details will follow, but I am confident that we will do it in an intelligent way. "
Passengers quickly blamed Bubba Wallace, NASCAR's only black driver, for pushing NASCAR to ban it. Years of bad press and handshakes over the fate of the flag disappeared within 48 hours when Wallace publicly condemned the relic of the good old roots of racing.
"I saw too many comments and too many stories from first-time fans who have come to a race in the past few years, and the first thing they said was, 'I saw the Confederate flag waving and I felt uncomfortable.' "Wallace told the" Today "show. "We shouldn't have anyone who feels uncomfortable."
Wallace finished 11th in Martinsville on Wednesday night, hours after the ban was announced, and drove a Black Lives Matter color scheme that read “Compassion, Love, Understanding” on the hood.
"It was really cool to see what Bubba could do," said NASCAR 2018 champion Joey Logano. "He should be proud of the movement he has made for the African American community in our sport. He has only ever been here, but when you look at the comments he recently made on CNN, NASCAR answered it completely. Kudos to NASCAR, Kudos to Bubba for approaching him and using his platform for something good. ”
Brad Daugherty, the lonely team owner of the black Cup series, told the AP that he was "touched to the core". NASCAR banned the flag.
"While some may say," NASCAR, what took you so long? "I think that's not the right answer," he said. "This is a big step in the right direction and now is the time to imagine the future. You can't look in the rearview mirror when you drive 200 miles an hour."
There were, of course, fans who were angry about the decision and howled on social media that their rights were trampled on and that they would continue to wave the stars and bars. NASCAR helmet artist Jason Beam, who designs drafts for Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and other star drivers, tweeted that he did not support "deleting only certain elements of the story" in order to please a certain audience.
Wallace tore Beam on social media and tweeted, "You made it clear where you stand in today's affair. All respect for you has been lost."
Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion, also cut ties with BEAMdesigns.
"Because of recent social media posts, I've decided to end my relationship with Beam Designs," Johnson tweeted.
Busch and Ryan Blaney also separated relationships with the helmet designer.
For weeks, NASCAR has been one of the few live sports on TV in the U.S., and ratings have risen in this most unusual season. In the first eleven races, the average proportion of Cup Series races on FOX / FS1 was 2.38, an increase of 1% over the previous year's average of 2.35 out of 44 market averages. Martinsville had 1,711,000 spectators for a weekday race on FS1.
And now comes the advertising around the flag ban.
The flood of celebs fascinated by NASCAR could only last a night, or maybe the support from star power signals that the series is headed for a revival.
"NASCAR had no choice in terms of optics," said NASCAR historian Dan Pierce. “I greet the drivers for getting up. But the cynical person in me, especially if you're dealing with NASCAR, is that they got the OK from their sponsors in advance or from NASCAR? You must honor them to take a stand that is not necessarily popular with a significant portion of their fan base. "
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