As the country struggles to get back to normalcy after being hit with world pandemic and social injustices at the hands of police, the sports world finds that it, too, isn’t immune to an apparent racist pandemic that’s plagued black Americans for centuries.
Several weeks ago NASCAR driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace announced his support and solidarity for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, donning BLM apparel at each of the races since. Since Wallace has expressed his support for BLM many NASCAR fans offered their disdain in response to his position.
Since Wallace first showed his support for the BLM movement, NASCAR took an unprecedented stance with regard to a battle version of the Confederate flag that has been a staple in Southern states since the South was defeated in the Civil War. As a result some NASCAR fans have encouraged a boycott of NASCAR arguing that the flag represents Southern pride rather than a volatile and racist time in American history.
One NASCAR (truck) driver (Ray Cicarelli) even went as far as announcing his departure from the sport, however his claim is, that fans should be able “to fly whatever flag they love,” while he “could care less about the Confederate Flag.” While it’s important to understand that not all those who fly the flag are racist, it is important to understand that that particular flag has been associated with, and part of a history of racist beliefs and ideology.
The example that racism is still seeded deep into America’s roots and was on full display over the weekend at Talladega, Alabama where a noose was found hanging in Wallace’s NASCAR garage. What makes this act even more blatant is that, allegegly credentialed NASCAR personnel can only access the area where this took place.
While this egregious act was directed specifically at Wallace, the amount of solidarity that ensued overshadowed the act itself. On Monday, just before the race started at Talladega, teams and personnel helped walk Wallace’s number 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 out to his position. Overfilled with emotion from the support he received from his fellow competitors Wallace was brought to tears.
Over the past few years I’ve noticed an ongoing mantra from a number of sports fans that disagree with athletes who use their position to bring awareness to an issue that may not get much attention in the orbits of major news networks. I’ve never agreed with that idea, because these athletes have all made sacrifices and endured struggles to get to the platform they now use to make a difference.
Brett Favre said it best, “Pat Tillman is another guy that did something similar (to Colin Kaepernick). And, we regard him as a hero. So, I’d assume that hero status will be stamped with Kaepernick as well.” You might not see them the same, but both fought for something much bigger than football.
Update: Since the writing of this story, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that no charges would be brought to anyone as they determined, the noose found, was placed on the garage door sometime in 2019.