Effective immediately, NASCAR has banned the Confederate flag from its races and properties.
In doing so, NASCAR has officially distanced itself from a divisive symbol inextricably tied to racism and slavery. The flag has been a common sight at racetracks across the country, but primarily in the Deep South, the sport’s traditional birthplace.
The decision comes amid nationwide social unrest in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. In the weeks since, mostly peaceful protests—with some instances of looting and violence—have emerged from coast to coast, with Confederate monuments being torn down across the Southeast.
Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, called for the banishment of the Confederate flag earlier in the week—telling CNN that there was “no place” for them in the sport.
That came after a powerful denouncement of racism from the sport on Sunday prior to the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The mostly white roster of Cup Series drivers came together on their own and produced a social media post endorsing social change.
Wallace walked the grid toward his car wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt under his firesuit. Wallace will drive a #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme for Richard Petty Motorsports on Wednesday night at Martinsville Speedway.
A Black NASCAR official, Kirk Price, took a knee before Sunday’s race at Atlanta during the anthem and invocation.
NASCAR backed up its community’s words with actions in banning the flag.
“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 sanctioning body did not address how it would enforce the policy or indicate any penalties for offending parties. NASCAR has not raced with fans since the season resumed from the coronavirus shutdown last month.
However, a minimal number of fans will be permitted into the grandstands the next two weekends at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
Former NASCAR CEO Brian France moved to ban the Confederate flag in 2015. He authorized a program that would allow fans to trade Confederate flags for new Star-Spangled Banners, but there were very few takers.
Now, it’s no longer an option.
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