NASCAR Bans Confederate Flag

Back in June 2013, I went to my first (and thus far only) NASCAR race. And I came away with a much greater appreciation of the sport. I saw it a lot like chess — a game that I played with a fair amount of seriousness for a long period of my life. It was fascinating to see how the racers won and lost their races just a little bit at a time — just like in a chess match between professionals.

I didn’t come away interested in the sport. Actually, given how evenly matched the drivers are and how subtle it all is, I’m amazed that it’s popular. But if people appreciate auto racing at even my simple level, I’m impressed. Good for them!

Confederate Flags at NASCAR

Of course, I wasn’t so impressed with the cultural elements of my time with NASCAR. It was filled with overt nationalism and public displays of religiosity that Jesus cautioned against in the Sermon on the Mount.[1] But you will see much the same at any sporting event in the US.

What really stood out were all the Confederate flags. I have zero tolerance for this. The people who sport them are at very best deluded. But in general, they are racist to such an extent that they are beyond proud of it. It’s not enough that they don’t care if you know about their bigotry. They want everyone to know about it.

The Confederate flag is the symbol of an act of treason against our country in the name of one of our worst shames: slavery. And this is not helped because most people who display the flag think they are the “true” or “real” Americans. They aren’t. They don’t like America but rather some vision of an American past where white men were proudly on top and everyone else kept quiet.

NASCAR Says No to the Confederate Flag

So I was thrilled when NASCAR put out the following statement:

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.

Don’t misunderstand me: this is a business decision. NASCAR could see two things clearly:

  1. Most of their fans think of themselves as good people who are not in favor of overt racism and so will welcome this ban of the Confederate flag.
  2. NASCAR has a lot more black and brown fans than they do hard-core racist fans.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped a bunch of people online from claiming that they will never support NASCAR again:

But mostly, people seem pleased. (Check out this parody tweet.) I suspect for a lot of people, even ones who may not especially like it, it isn’t worth contesting. As the poet said: the times they are a-changing.

Congratulations

Regardless, it says something when a large business like NASCAR decides that it will not tolerate the Confederate flag. It says the time is over for when people could claim this treasonous, racist flag is just about their “southern pride” or some other horseshit.

Congratulations America! You won NASCAR!


[1] Matthew 6:5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

3 thoughts on “NASCAR Bans Confederate Flag

  1. We’ll see how they enforce it. For example, the baseball teams in Atlanta and Cleveland disavowed the worst, most racist aspects of their fan “traditions” a year or two back, but still tacitly allow them.

    Cleveland had the mascot “Chief Wahoo,” which looked like (and was in fact inspired by) the kind of caricatures you’d see in 1910s newspaper cartoons. They officially dropped it as their mascot, but it’s easy to get brand new “Chief Wahoo” shirts on Amazon. Some of which bear the motto “never forget” — rather problematic for a cartoon mockery of genocide, just a bit! If the team really cared about eliminating that caricature, they could trademark-infringement all over anybody selling those shirts. They aren’t.

    Incidentally, there are no federally-recognized Native tribal communities in Ohio. Not one. It’s not because they all bought time shares someplace else. I usually bring this up once a year when covering baseball games and someone, inevitably, says the logo honors Cleveland’s history. Uh, no.

    In Atlanta, the worst offense is a “tomahawk chop” and chant fans do at critical game moments (Cleveland fans do it too, to a lesser extent, it’s more of an Atlanta thing.) The team now officially discourages this. Fans do it anyway, and aren’t kicked out of the stadium for starting it. (In Australia, if you start “The Wave” at a rugby game, you’re not just kicked out — you’re banned for life! That’s how you stop fan behavior. And keep in mind “The Wave” isn’t morally offensive, it’s just stupid and annoying to people sitting down who want to pay attention to the game and not have their view blocked by morons standing up in front of them.)

    So we’ll see what NASCAR does with fans wearing traitor-flag T-shirts or face paint. But even a first step is heartening, plus probably a good business decision.

    Just for “sports history is weird” info… Cleveland first put “Chief Wahoo” on their caps in the post-WWII era, when promotional wizard extraordinaire Bill Veeck owned the team. He thought it was a fun, innocent cartoon, and later expressed some regret over it.

    According to Veeck, he’d tried to hire a team of Negro League ringers in 1946, one year before Robinson played in MLB, and was shot down by commissioner Judge Landis. That’s not confirmable, it’s what Veeck claimed. It would fit with Veeck’s promotional creativity; he was partially responsible for growing the famed ivy at Wrigley Field and putting player names on the back of jerseys, as well as the famous incident where he put in pinch-hitter Eddie Gaedel (3’7″) to draw a walk and get replaced by a pinch-runner. But whether or not Veeck tried to integrate the league in 1946, we only have his word for it.

    What is documentably true is that when Black player Curt Flood challenged baseball’s ban on free agency, the only other person then-currently involved in baseball who testified before the Supreme Court on Flood’s behalf was Veeck. He was asked by the Court to douse his cigar, which he did by rolling up a pants leg and stubbing his cigar out on a wooden prosthetic (a shock gag Veeck loved using on kids, also Supreme Court justices).

    Veeck’s kid, Bill, inherited Dad’s promotional inclination — he was responsible for the infamous “Disco Demolition Night” in Chicago that almost started a white riot of junkies burning mostly Black dance records. Later, the junior Veeck would run an independent-league team in St. Paul that was the first professional White men’s baseball team to use a female player (the first female baseball professional player was Toni Stone in the Negro Leagues, born and raised in St. Paul — which wasn’t entirely a promotional stunt, she was a brilliant defensive infielder).

    So, anyhoo, that’s how weird sports history can be, and how many words I’ll write rather than write about far more difficult subjects above my skillset…

    • I’m glad you explained why the wave was banned. Although I should have known because I’ve been at games that did them and it was super annoying!

      I can well imagine that Veeck did do it innocently. Looking at Warner Bros cartoons, most of the stereotypes don’t seem to be intended negatively. I say that because some of them clearly were. The problem comes when someone points out the issue and everyone says, “Oh you [whatever] people just need to be more thick-skinned.” That argument would have more power if whites didn’t constantly show themselves to have the thinnest skin around.

      Since 2015, NASCAR has been discouraging the treason flag at their events. That was 2 years after I attended. And I believe that it had some effect. But of course: it is going to be the biggest assholes who push forward. On Twitter, I saw people saying, “I’ll bring mine anyway!” But I suspect NASCAR will police it. But we’ll see. I think over the last 10 years, the flag has lost most of its plausible deniability. I think most people roll their eyes at “it’s about southern pride.” No. It’s 50% “you’re a bigot” and 50% “you’re an asshole.” (It’s amazing how many confederate flags I see here in the Bay Area. These people aren’t fooling anyone!)

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