Nascar Bans Confederate Flags From Its Events and Properties

(Bloomberg) -- Nascar is banning the Confederate battle flag from its events and properties, saying it runs against the stock-car racing circuit’s commitment to make all fans feel comfortable.

“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 on Twitter.

Bubba Wallace, Nascar’s only black driver, called for the ban during an interview on Monday. Wallace’s car will feature a black lives matter paint scheme during Wednesday’s event at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

The ban could help the sport in appealing to a wider and more diverse audience at a time when it’s struggled to increase its fan base.

“Nascar has seen more downs than ups in terms of attendance in the last few years, but more importantly, there has been long-term concern regarding what and who Nascar stands for,” T. Bettina Cornwell, the academic director at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, said in an email. “All sports have symbols -- the loss of the Confederate flag will result in pushback from some traditional loyalists -- but it will open the sport to many more than it loses.”

That sentiment was echoed by Ben Shapiro, the founder of Pivot Agency, a sports and entertainment marketing firm.

“I think it’s all positive,” said Shapiro. “For their brand and business, it was the right thing to do.”

Nascar’s decision comes in contrast to President Donald Trump’s statement that his administration won’t rename U.S. military bases that honor leaders of the Confederacy.

The flag was widely adopted by racist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, since the Civil War more than 150 years ago. It’s been a common sight at Nascar events for decades, but pressure to eliminate Confederate symbols is mounting. On Tuesday, the U.S. Navy had said it would ban the flag from public spaces on its vessels and bases.

Nationwide protests -- spurred by the killing of George Floyd while in police custody -- have prodded sports organization to reconsider their stances on issues. On Friday, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized for not listening to NFL players earlier when they spoke out about racism, saying the league backs the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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