Rebel Flag Ban Fallout

Darrell Wallace, Jr.

NASCAR’S Rebel flag ban from its venues and properties grabbed the sporting news headlines this week!

Now comes the very tricky part.

In a matter of days, NASCAR will be faced with a daunting question: How to enforce the ban at its sprawling, rowdy tracks once fans are allowed back in and campers start setting up their RVs for race weekends? Approximately 1,000 members of the military will be allowed into Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and become the first fans at a NASCAR event since the pandemic shut down sports in March.

The enforcement question is much more likely to be an issue when the series holds races June 20-21 at Talladega Superspeedway where up to 5,000 fans are expected to be allowed in. Flags are a common sight at the superspeedway in the heart of NASCAR’s Southern base. NASCAR will work to develop protocols around enforcement, though it’s not known where the ban ends? Will security be tasked with policing every Rebel flag string bikini or scrape off all the bumper stickers?

Take off that shirt, or else!

Or else, what?

“That will certainly be a challenge. We’ll try to do that the right way,” NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell told SiriusXM on Thursday. “We’ll get ahead of it as we are today in letting people know that, ‘Hey, we’re all about pride, we’re all about America, fly your U.S. flag high, fly your drivers flags high and come on into the track.’ But if we see something displayed at the track we’re going to have react and we will. More details to come but I’m confident we’ll do that and we’ll do that in a smart way.”

Fellow drivers were quick to credit Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s lone black driver, for pushing NASCAR to enact the ban. Years of bad press and hand-wringing over the fate of the flag evaporated within 48 hours once Wallace publicly condemned the relic of racing’s good ol’ boy roots.

“I’ve seen too many comments and too many stories from first-time fans that come to a race in years past and the first thing they say, ‘I’ve seen the Confederate flag flying and it made me feel uncomfortable,’” Wallace told the “Today” show. “We shouldn’t have anybody feeling uncomfortable.”

“I’ve seen too many comments and too many stories from first-time fans that come to a race in years past and the first thing they say, ‘I’ve seen the Confederate flag flying and it made me feel uncomfortable,’” Wallace told the “Today” show. “We shouldn’t have anybody feeling uncomfortable.”

There were, of course, fans furious at the decision, howling on social media that their rights are being been trampled on and they would continue to wave the stars and bars. NASCAR helmet artist Jason Beam, who paints designs for Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and other star drivers, tweeted that he did not support “erasing only particular elements of history” to please a particular audience.

Wallace ripped Beam on social media, tweeting: “ You made it clear of where you stand in today’s matter. All respect lost for ya dawg.”

Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion, also cut ties with BEAMdesigns.

“Due to recent posts on social media I have decided to end my relationship with Beam Designs,” Johnson tweeted.

Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney also severed relationships with the helmet designer.

And now comes the publicity surrounding the flag ban.

The surge of celebs engrossed with NASCAR could be a one-night only instance or perhaps the the star-power support signals the series is headed toward a revival.

“As far as the optics, NASCAR didn’t have a choice,” NASCAR historian Dan Pierce said. “I applaud the drivers for standing up. But the cynical person in me, especially when you’re dealing with NASCAR, is, did they get the OK from their sponsors ahead of time or from NASCAR? You have to give them credit for making a stand, which isn’t necessarily popular with a significant portion of their fan base.”

It will be very interesting to see all the fallout that NASCAR’s decision will cause, and where the newly paved road will lead!

Those previously discussed instances are only the beginnings of what may occur. It is only the tip of the “rebel iceberg” that may break off and flow onto the path towards racial equality.

TIL NEXT TIME, IAM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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