NASCAR the Wrong Target in NAACP-Confederate Flag Tirade

by Jonathan Lintner (Columnist)

May 26, 2009

Miami-Dade’s NAACP announced that it would boycott NASCAR if the United States’ top stock car series wouldn’t comply and ban the Confederate flag from the racetrack, saying it’s an “offensive symbol.”

This is the same NASCAR that stopped engines last Monday amid threatening skies in order to honor fallen and current military personnel. Only laps away from the official halfway mark and a viable stopping point for an already-delayed Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR decided that Memorial Day and American heroes were more important than what was happening on the track.

During the full minute of silence that began at exactly 3 p.m. local time, the American flags at Lowe’s Motor Speedway were held at half staff. Confederate flags were few and far between, unseen on TV and unnoticed by those in attendance.

It’s the same NASCAR that continues to improve upon the idea of a diversity program to push minorities into the top ranks of stock car racing. The Drive for Diversity has its flaws, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The same NASCAR, that when forced into a lawsuit last season for allegedly mistreating an African-American Nationwide Series official, didn’t throw her under the bus, but rather found ways to make their series more welcoming in the future.

The NAACP is targeting the wrong people if they wish to ban the Confederate flag at the racetrack. What people bring to the track on flagpoles, bumper stickers, and tattoos isn’t NASCAR’s problem, but rather one of the whole Southeastern United States—and that’s if displaying the symbol is even a real problem.

Confederate flags won’t pop up when NASCAR visits the Infineon Raceway in California or the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada, because the flags don’t travel with NASCAR, but rather with the type of fan that attends the events being held.

Can you imagine the back of your NASCAR ticket if the NAACP got its way?

“No persons upon entry to this facility may bring in umbrellas, coolers larger than 12” by 12”, and confederate flags.”

Something doesn’t fit there.

So they say these are the United States and people shouldn’t display a symbol representing years of separation and turmoil within the country. But nowhere within the law is the waving of the Confederate flag deemed illegal.

I’m not for the Confederate flag and I don’t like it, but it’s more Constitutionally wrong for an organization to go against the law upon personal belief than for someone to exercise the rights and freedoms bestowed upon American citizens—and this definitely has nothing to do with NASCAR, which would lose half a drop of water in the bucket if the NAACP decided to boycott.

For NASCAR to be targeted ahead of other sporting events like Southeastern Conference Football is another dig I have with the NAACP. Perhaps they should do something about the Ole Miss Rebels, whose fans proudly display the flag in the stands during football season.

And how about the rest of the conference, where Confederate flags are as common as burgers and hot dogs during tailgating festivities?

If the NAACP views this as a problem, they shouldn’t just call out NASCAR, which doesn’t need to control the rights of people who enter their tracks beyond the realm of safety and security—neither of which are immediately threatened by a flag that’s only viewed offensive by the way it’s interpreted.

Even a Confederate flag-less NASCAR racing series wouldn’t go far to mending the problems of lingering racism in the United States. That NASCAR fans want the confederacy to return is an ageless stereotype fueled by underlying tensions, not an on-the-surface issue that needs addressing.

A boycott over something as off-the-mark as a complete ban of a meaningless symbol that is in no way associated with NASCAR isn’t the NAACP’s place to stir up trouble. There’s got to be something more drastically wrong going on out in the world, like freedom of speech, that the NAACP can fix their way.

If they have an argument as to why a symbol should be banned, I’m sure an amendment would be swiftly put into action. But it wouldn’t include NASCAR’s name, which is in no way associated with the Confederate flag.

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