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NASCAR Bans Confederate Flag From Events

NOEL KING, HOST:

NASCAR is done with the Confederate flag. From now on, it'll be banned from all events. NASCAR has Southern roots and a mostly white fan base, and yet one of its biggest stars joined the push for racial justice and real change in this country. Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It's a funny thing about time. During the pandemic, it seems to have stood still. Now, in the raging aftermath of George Floyd's death, things are happening at warp speed as society confronts age-old issues about and symbols of racism. It was Monday night when Bubba Wallace, the only African American driver on NASCAR's top circuit, said this on CNN.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUBBA WALLACE: 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.

GOLDMAN: Yesterday, it was done. Before racing at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, Wallace was asked about the new ban on the Confederate flag.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WALLACE: Bravo. Props to NASCAR. And that was a huge, pivotal moment for the sport. A lot of backlash, but it creates doors and allows the community to come together as one.

GOLDMAN: Five years ago, the man who murdered nine black people in a South Carolina church was shown in photos before the attack posing with a Confederate flag. It prompted NASCAR to ask fans to stop flying it. They didn't. Now it's telling fans to stop with a new rule that followed Wallace's plea Monday and a video that he and fellow drivers, all white, released the day before.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED NASCAR DRIVER #1: All of our voices - they make a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED NASCAR DRIVER #2: No matter how big or how small.

UNIDENTIFIED NASCAR DRIVER #3: It is all of our responsibility...

UNIDENTIFIED NASCAR DRIVER #4: To no longer be silent.

UNIDENTIFIED NASCAR DRIVER #5: To no longer be silent.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR ENGINES REVVING)

GOLDMAN: Bubba Wallace finished 11th at Martinsville, broadcast on FS1, but his No. 43 car stood out for its messages, Black Lives Matter and, on the hood, the words compassion, love and understanding.

There will be backlash to NASCAR's decision from fans and already from a driver in racing's Truck Series. Ray Ciccarelli says he'll quit at the end of the season, quote, "if this is the direction NASCAR is headed." He wrote on social media, I could care less about the Confederate flag, but there are people that do, and it doesn't make them a racist. This is political BS.

There were no fans at Martinsville yesterday. There will be up to a thousand this weekend at a race in Florida, a first opportunity for NASCAR to perhaps enforce its new, and many say overdue, rule.

Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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