CHARLOTTE, NC (WWBT)- NASCAR announced on Wednesday evening that it has banned the Confederate flag from all events and properties. The move comes less than 48 hours after Bubba Wallace, the lone black driver on the Monster Cup circuit, called for the sport to do so.
“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 in a statement. "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 decision comes following a Sunday in Atlanta that saw the sport speak out against racism and injustice. Chesterfield native Denny Hamlin is one of many drivers who says the events of recent weeks have caused him to reexamine himself.
“It opened a lot of eyes,” Hamin said. “I’ve probably watched more videos and tried to educate myself more and more over the last couple of weeks than I ever have on the issue.”
Hamlin was included in a video that ran prior to the green flag in Atlanta, initiated by the drivers, pledging to listen and learn more about social inequality.
"Although tragic, these people who lost their lives are probably going to save thousands of lives in the future," the Joe Gibbs driver noted. "That is their legacy."
The video was one of several nods that NASCAR gave to making changes on Sunday. Following their pre-race laps, drivers came to a halt and shut down their engines to listen to a message from NASCAR president Steve Phelps. Wallace wore an “I Can’t Breath. Black Lives Matter” t-shirt, and he’ll be behind the wheel of a car on Wednesday night in Martinsville with a paint scheme sending that same message.
"Running this race car, being on live television, on FOX, I think it's going to speak volumes to what I stand for, but also what the initiative NASCAR, the whole sport, is trying to push," Wallace said.
Wallace and his fellow drivers are not the only ones speaking up. Legendary driver Jeff Gordon is doing the same. During his pre-race commentary prior to Sunday's race, Gordon acknowledged that, while both he and Wallace have reached the pinnacle of the sport, their upbringings were vastly different.
"I'll never know what it's like to walk in Bubba's shoes, or the shoes of anyone who has experienced racism," the driver-turned analyst said. "But I do know that I can be better we can be better to create positive things."
According to a 2018 survey, NASCAR has an 80 percent white fanbase. However, the sport is working to show that it's all-inclusive, and most of its drivers seem ready to deliver.
“Everybody’s welcome in NASCAR races,” said Martin Truex Jr. “We want everybody to be included and not feel out of place in any way if they decide to come.”
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