Once Nascar races with spectators are run again, there’ll be a notable absence from the circuits: Confederate flags. As racial protests across the United States - triggered by the killing of George Floyd - continue, Nascar has announced the banning of the flag at all its events.
In a statement, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing said:
“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 battle flag of the Confederacy, which fought for the institution of slavery in the American Civil War, has been a common sight at Nascar races for decades. Following the 2015 Charleston church shooting - perpetrated by white supremacist Dylann Roof, who was obsessed with the flag - then-Nascar chairman Brian France unsuccessfully attempted to have it outlawed at its tracks.
Earlier this week, Bubba Wallace, the only black driver in any of Nascar’s top three categories, had called for the flag to go. Just after the ban was announced, Wallace raced at Martinsville Speedway with a special ‘Black Lives Matter’ livery. This marks a big shift in thinking from the team Wallace races for. In 2017, owner Richard Petty spoke out against the idea of any drivers following in the footsteps of NFL player Colin Kaepernick and kneeling in protest during the national anthem.
“Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States,” he said at the time, as reported in the Associated Press.
Speaking to CNN earlier this week, Wallace said: “There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family that feels some type of way about something they have seen, an object they have seen flying,” He added: “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.”