It’s no secret that the death of George Floyd has completely rocked this country, and arguably, the world. We saw Black Lives Matter protests across all 50 states and in different countries across the globe. Along with these protests, we have seen a disruption in the sports world as well. We’ve seen Drew Brees become public enemy number 1 overnight, and we saw the NFL apologizing for their ignorance of players protesting against racism and police brutality. We have seen teams and players across all major sports leagues make statements, some being a lot better than others.
What many have considered incredibly shocking is NASCAR’s reaction. Prior to Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR released a video featuring multiple drivers making a statement against racism and how they plan to address it in their lives in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
With a fanbase that is over 90% white, this strong statement was shocking, to say the least. NASCAR currently employs one full-time African-American driver, Bubba Wallace, and he is making his voice heard. Bubba Wallace, the driver of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet, was seen wearing an “I Can’t Breathe – Black Lives Matter Shirt” before Sunday’s race. Before the green flag dropped, NASCAR also held a moment of silence followed by a message from their President Steve Phelps.
But it didn’t end there. NASCAR released a bombshell statement on Wednesday a few hours prior to their race at Martinsville Speedway that they would ban the presence of Confederate flags at their events. The timing of this doesn’t seem accidental. With the current climate of our country and the stereotypes about the fans of this sport combined with addition of fans back at races next week, it all just adds up. This ban is an incredibly powerful one because it moves NASCAR’s statements past the idea that they are just virtue signaling and signifies them as actual ambassadors for change.
It’s no surprise that this statement was met with anger by some fans, but the majority seem to be thrilled about this step forward. This has also brought major recognition to the sport by other professional athletes like Marlon Humphrey and Alvin Kamara who now seem to be new fans of the sport. Another step forward in activism was Bubba Wallace running a Black Lives Matter paint scheme for Wednesday night’s race where he earned a top 15 finish. This paint scheme gained the attention of LeBron James, who has been extremely vocal in the Black Lives Matter movement for years.
Some felt that NASCAR would lose fans because of these statements, but quite the opposite happened. NASCAR saw a massive increase in viewership for the race at Martinsville, and it feels safe to say that they will be seeing a lot more new fans. These powerful statements and actions by NASCAR should speak volumes. At the risk of losing fans due to the harmful and hateful culture embedded within their fandom, NASCAR has made their stance very clear.
We as people need to do better to listen more to those who need our help and we need to do whatever we can to help them. This movement isn’t about white vs black. This is a movement about long-overdue justice vs a harmful system. To learn more about how you can help the Black Lives Matter, visit the link below and you will be directed to petitions, donations, and valuable information.