NASCAR finally kisses one of the more problematic emblems of its good ol’ boy tradition goodbye. The Confederate flag, long flown at race campsites and in the grandstands, adorning everything from t-shirts to coolers to cars, has been banned from all races and venues.
The ban comes after Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s sole Black driver, spoke out earlier this week, saying there is “no place” for the flag and overt symbol of racism and slavery in the sport.
The ban was announced Wednesday, just before this week’s race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.
“It’s been a stressful couple of weeks,” Wallace told Fox Sports. “This is no doubt the biggest race of my career tonight. I’m excited about tonight. There’s a lot of emotions on the race track.”
Wallace wore an American flag mask and a black “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt. He drove a Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Chevrolet covered with #BlackLivesMatter insignia and the words “Compassion, Love, Understanding” printed across the hood.
“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,” NASCAR said. “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.”
NASCAR’s announcement was lauded on social media— by fans and athletes, as well as the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, Bernice King.
In this moment it’s good to see entities like @nascar taking the necessary steps to remove symbols of hate, racism, and discrimination from their events.— NAACP (@NAACP) June 10, 2020
#NASCAR, family...— Be A King (@BerniceKing) June 10, 2020
Even A-list southern belle Reese Witherspoon showed her support.
Oh, and Wallace got a shoutout from LeBron:
Wallace finished 11th in Wednesday’s race. Ryan Blaney, fellow driver and one of Wallace’s best friends, said there’s a lot of support for Wallace.
“I’m really proud of what he’s doing, the effort he’s putting in and wanting to kind of lead the charge,” Blaney said.
“I stand behind him. A lot of guys stand behind him. Not only the drivers, but a lot of teams, as well. Crew members. The car he ran tonight was great. I loved that he was able to do that and come up with that idea.”
Drivers came together last weekend to produce a video promoting NASCAR’s efforts toward social change and the sport’s commitment to the fight against racism.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, NASCAR has not opened its tracks to spectators yet but will do so soon. A small number of fans will be admitted to a race near Miami on Sunday and more will be permitted to attend a race later this month in Alabama.