by Alaina Fox
Though the Confederate flag has often been a prominent fixture on NASCAR properties and at its races, the organization declared on Wed., Jun. 10, that the flag was no longer acceptable to display at events.
NASCAR released an official statement on social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, announcing the prohibition of Confederate flags at future events. The statement explained, “The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
The decision follows years of pressure from fans and racers alike for NASCAR to prohibit the flag. In 2015, the CEO at the time, Brian France, described the Confederate flag as “offensive and divisive.” Rather than implementing an outright ban, France instituted a program in which spectators could receive an American flag in exchange for turning in a Confederate flag; however, fans showed little interest.
As protests demanding justice for victims of police brutality have erupted across the nation, many corporations and businesses have come under scrutiny for discriminatory practices. Frequently, outspoken employees garnered the widespread attention that galvanizes change. NASCAR was no exception, instituting the ban days after demands from a driver. On Sun., Jun. 7, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace—the only prominent black NASCAR driver—attended a race wearing a shirt with the phrases “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter.” The next day, Wallace told CNN, “My next step would be to get rid of all Confederate flags. No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
Though some fans have condemned the ban, Wallace applauded the move, and other celebrities and athletes echoed his sentiments. For example, Billie Jean King tweeted, “It should have been done long ago. Nonetheless, thank you, @NASCAR, for stepping out on the right side of history by banning Confederate flags at events and on properties.”
NASCAR has not explained enforcement policies, but the issue is currently a moot point, as fans cannot currently attend races because of the threat of COVID-19.
(Sources: NPR, NBC, LA Times, CNN, NASCAR, Associated Press, ESPN)