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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Banning Confederate flags from NASCAR tracks would violate freedom of speech

“If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.”
Noam Chomsky

The occasional push to ban Confederate flags from NASCAR events has been brought back to life by the NAACP this week, as the Miami-Dade branch of the organization want the Stars and Bars banned from the Homestead-Miami Motor Speedway, and are concerned about the flag’s presence at Veterans Day events in South Florida. The group will meet Thursday to decide whether to boycott the NASCAR race at Homestead in November.

NAACP members may also get in touch with some of NASCAR's sponsors if nothing is done about the flags.

While I understand why many people are turned off by the flag, and the injustices of slavery that it represents to those who view it as a symbol of hate, they are forgetting one key point in the discussion: This is America and we have freedom of speech.

Unless a symbol directly threatens violence (such as a burning cross), neither NASCAR nor any level of government should be in the business of legislating what symbols should be allowed in a particular venue. The reason freedom of speech was introduced by our Founding Fathers was not to protect the most popular ideas. It was put in place to protect unpopular ideas.

The American Civil Liberties Union has made a career out of defending these unpopular ideas and the right of people to voice them. They have represented the most vile groups (for example defending the right of the KKK to hold marches), but even the worst parts of society have the right to free speech. As Voltaire famously said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

But this flag issue is nowhere near the level of a KKK march. For many in the South, the Confederate flag is a reminder of their ancestors who died in the Civil War. History has shown the South was on the wrong side of that war, but there is no reason the people of the South shouldn’t have the right to honor their ancestors.

To the NAACP and many Americans, the flag is a symbol of hatred, slavery and injustice. But many Americans don’t view it that way, and they have the right to fly it if they want.

Beyond all the political correctness issues, it all comes down to one thing: The First Amendment, which I view as the most important part of the Bill of Rights. We can’t ban every symbol that bothers a large group of people, as it goes against the very nature of the freedoms we were granted.

The bottom line is there’s not much NASCAR could or should do about what flags fans wave at the track. NASCAR prohibits displays of the Confederate flag on its cars, uniforms, licensed merchandise or in advertisements. That’s fine, as it’s self-policing. But going beyond that scope is not necessary, nor legal. Also, technically, NASCAR doesn’t own Homestead speedway, so they don’t have the authority to do anything.

NASCAR’s CEO and President Brian France said it best in a 2005 interview: “I can’t tell people what flag to fly.” I’m glad he is up on his Constitutional law, because any attempt to regulate the expression of fans would be an assault on free speech.

While I don’t deny that some people who fly the Confederate flag are racist, the NAACP has no way to see what’s in the head of everyone who flies it. I do not disagree that many great wrongs were done under that flag, and fully recognize why so many people dislike it, but that does not mean it should not be allowed to be seen. The very idea is against what America stands for.

My advice to those who would protest NASCAR for not banning the flags would be to spend their time educating people so the level of racism can continue to decline in America. Boycotting a NASCAR race or some Veteran’s Day parade because a few of these flags are flying will not accomplish much.

The issue is bigger than a symbol. I agree there is still a racial divide in America, but going after a symbol won’t change that. As new generations come around and are properly educated on how to treat other people regardless of race, then the problem of racism will begin to disappear.

I’m sure the NAACP means well, but chasing after a symbol they hate, but represents history to others, won’t do much good for anybody.


Blogger LVWolfman said...

You say that many great wrongs were done under the Stars and Bars? The flag in question these days is the Confederate Battle Flag. It was only carried into battle starting in December of 1861. It did not exist until after the United States Army attacked the ex-states. So defending yourself from the U. S. Federal Government is a great wrong?

To me, the Confederate Battle Flag represents the battle between the U. S. Federal Government and the individual States who were brave enough to take the final step of secession over State's Rights.

That battle continues today, a small recent example: the Federal Government's refusal to to let Californians have their legal (by California law) medical marijuana.

May 27, 2009 at 7:19 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they goes as far as contacting sponsors, then France needs to pull the race from Homestead & finish the season elsewhere. In 2010 start & finish the season at Dayton. They are assuming that everyone that flies The Confederate Flag is racist, IMO this is just one right being stripped from us all. How many organized groups are we going allow to take our rights because it offends them. Whats next? Are they going to stop NASCAR from praying, fly-overs, National Anthem? If this allowed the rest will follow.

May 28, 2009 at 4:03 AM 
Anonymous MI Mike said...

I dont believe flying the Confederate Flag is right or wrong. One thing for sure is no one has the right to tell me or any American what colors to fly.
The NAACP is once again using political clout to bully and shove their beliefs down the throats of Americans.

The result of all this rhetoric will do nothing but fire up the issue, and my bet is you'll see more flags than before.

I'm from the North but maybe its time to buy a Confederate flag and wave my first amendment rights to remind the NAACP this is still America.

May 28, 2009 at 5:39 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fact check!

South Carolina led the way for the states to leave the Union. They were not happy Lincoln was they pouted and took their toys home!

South Carolina started the war with their attack on Ft. Sumter April of 1861.

The right to fly the flag of the rebellious states should not be infringed upon as we are all Americans under the protection of our Constitution.

Those who fly this flag to honor their ancestors lives do not spread hate; however racists who fly it in ignorance or wear items with it are what makes the very sight of ugly!

May 28, 2009 at 6:08 AM 
Blogger Ron from OSU said...

Sorry Matt and Brian but its time to go back to (law) school for the both of you, although I suspect that Brian was being less than honest with his 2005 comments about the confederate flag. “I can’t tell people what flag to fly.”

Note to Brian France—Oh yes you can!!

US Constitution and the Bill of Rights protect citizen’s rights from infringement by governmental actions not private actions. Since the NAACP and NASCAR are not governmental entities any agreement to ban the confederate flag entered into between the two of them would not violate ANY provisions of the US Constitution. All Brian has to do is slur the words “No more confederate flags at any NASCAR event” and bingo they are gone and you have no right to appeal his decision.

FYI—Read the fine print on the back of your next NASCAR ticket and you will see that you have “voluntarily” waived most if not all of your free speech rights the moment you set foot on the grounds of any NASCAR sanctioned event. Don’t believe me? Try putting up a “Mayfield Got Screwed” banner anywhere within camera range at Dover this weekend and see how long you and the banner remain on the racetrack grounds

May 28, 2009 at 6:10 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, the NAACP is a racist organization. The "advancement for colored people."? RACIST. Also, if people did research, the Confederate Flag is not a symbol of hate. Lincoln owned a slave, and was hesitant to free them. And the South seceded from the Union because of Lincoln taxing the imports that the South got for their mills and businesses. The highest tax ever by a President: 40%. The South had no choice but to try to make it on their own. Oh, and by the way, Blacks fought against the North for that very reason. Not slavery.

May 28, 2009 at 7:10 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone from the NAACP attend NASCAR races or do they just need an issue to get their organization back into the news? In the campgrounds there are so many different flags that one does not stand out. There are a few of the driver's flags I would like for them to protest while they are at it. I really don't like them being flown in my presence. Now tell me, What's the difference?

May 28, 2009 at 8:07 AM 
Anonymous Bob said...

Oh No! the NAACP boycotting something again ? Those idiots boycott everything under the sun and it matters not.Do the powers that be really fear such backwards losers as Al (Tawana is covered in poopy) Sharpton, Jesse(it aint my kid)Jackson and the rest of the usual suspects? Those folks from the NAACP represent exactly 0% of the fan base and should be treated as the free loaders that they are. They are looking for publicity and should be ignored until they eventually and inevitably go away.

May 28, 2009 at 12:08 PM 
Anonymous Oldsmo-Bill said...

Many of your reader responses are correct, in that slavery was merely one of many gripes that the southern states had with the union at that time, not the least of which was STATE'S RIGHTS, which, by the way, are beginning to enter the political debate once again. And I, also a northerner, do have a Confederate battle flag and fly it with pride because I believe in state's rights, as originally guaranteed by the Constitution and elaborated upon in the Federalist Papers. Who is the NAACP, or anyone else for that matter, to say what I am thinking when I fly my flag. and furthermore, why should it matter, unless thoughts have now become punishable. (And if you look closely, so-called "hate crimes" legislation attempts to do just that: outlaw (by way of increased punishment) our THOUGHTS!)

May 28, 2009 at 1:51 PM 
Anonymous canadian said...


May 28, 2009 at 6:11 PM 

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