AMERICAN motor sport series Nascar has announced that it will no longer allow Confederate flags to be flown at its races or events, neither by competitors or fans. Unsurprisingly, the announcement has caused a furore, with some vowing to never again attend a race, and others to carry on bringing the flag to races despite the new rules.
The flag, which bears a white-bordered blue cross (emblazoned with thirteen white stars) on a red background, was flown by the Confederacy during the American Civil War (1861-1865). The war was fought between the northern states (the Union), which wished to end the enslavement of black people, and the southern states (the Confederacy), which wanted continue slavery. The flag is considered to have links to white supremacy and slavery, and is considered a symbol of hate by the Anti Defamation League.
In a statement on Twitter, Nascar said: “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.”
Some, especially in the American south — a region often associated with Nascar — see the flag as an image of heritage, rather than a hate symbol. Fans of Nascar who hold this view are now accusing the sport of pandering to “Liberal” fans, and taking a needlessly politically-correct stance.
This is the last straw.
I have been watching NASCAR events for 10 years and I have weathered all of the sjw bulshit.
I'm cancelling my subscription and myself, my wife, and her boyfriend will not be watching any further NASCAR events. you have lost a valuable customer today
— The Mx The Myth The Legend (@Devon_OnEarth) June 10, 2020
And they allow the protests during the National Anthem. To this son of a vet, this Father of a Vet and a Vet @NASCAR has gone to far for me.
— Glen Starek (@GlenSPhoto) June 10, 2020
I cancelled my Talladega tickets today after 25+ years. I never dreamed NASCAR would ever disrespect our flag, anthem and veterans. Kneeling for our anthem is not respect. You lost two long time fans today.
— Rammer ?Jammy (@BamaJan) June 11, 2020
Many, however, are praising the move as the sport distancing itself from the harmful politics that the flag has come to represent in many circles, and showing itself to be a motor sport committed to fans of all races. One commenter spoke of how her father had always loved Nascar but had never attended a race due to his fears of encountering racism. Others spoke of their embarrassment at their own confederate heritage.
The sport’s only black driver, Bubba Wallace, called the move a “pivotal moment for the sport”. In a race at Martinsville Speedway last night, he clad his car in Black Lives Matter livery and wore a t-shirt bearing the words “I can’t breathe”.
My father, a black man, loved NASCAR. He always wanted to go to a race but he was afraid of the racism. It's sad that i also never got to experience that with him before he died. Keep changing @NASCAR so more people will feel safe. Thank you!
— AftonHarris (@AftonHa09807767) June 11, 2020
I had ancestors fight and die for that flag during the Civil War. It’s my heritage. A heritage that is embarrassing & a mistake in history. That flag has no place in our country, good for you NASCAR.
— April (@AprilandPJ) June 10, 2020
This is AMAZING! As a southerner with ancestors who fought for the confederacy, I think that stupid flag belongs in a history book/museum, not being waved around or hung in public as a sign of “pride.” Everyone KNOWS it’s a racist symbol at this point. Good job, @NASCAR!
— Ashley (@fearless_617) June 10, 2020
The announcement comes as the US is forced to reckon with its systemic racism. Nationwide riots over the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, continue, with many calling for police forces across the country to be defunded.
The officer responsible for Floyd’s death, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder. Confederate statues are being toppled by protesters. A statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis was toppled in Richmond, Virginia, last night, and statues of Christopher Columbus are being vandalised across the nation.
In the UK, protesters in Bristol brought down a statue of 17th-century slave owner Edward Colston, before throwing it in Bristol harbour. Other statues are also being removed by local councils pending decisions on what to do with them.