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Monday, June 15, 2009

NASCAR should punish racism as hard as it punishes drug abuse

The issue of racism has reared its ugly head in NASCAR again, as I feared it would when young Marc Davis, an African-American, started to make his way into the top NASCAR series.

After an accident involving Davis and Brendan Gaughan in the Nationwide series, Gaughan’s crew chief Bryan Berry is accused of confronting Davis, and using a racial slur. He has been suspended indefinitely, and rightfully so.

Freedom of speech is very important to me, and I have defended a lot of things in this space, including the right of NASCAR fans to wave the Confederate flag.

But racist comments from employees of NASCAR should not be tolerated and should be dealt with in a swift and harsh manner. A message needs to be sent that anyone caught speaking about minorities in that manner has no place in NASCAR. And unlike the flag issue, NASCAR actually has some authority here because they have the right to regulate their employees' conduct.

Gone are the bad old days, such as when African-American driver Wendell Scott won a race in Florida in 1963, but was not announced as the winner of a race because of fears about how the crowd would react.

This is a new era, and racism should be treated like the plague. It should be treated with the same harshness that NASCAR has had toward anyone found to be using drugs.

What’s worse for NASCAR? A driver using performance enhancers or a driver making comments that will send the sport’s image among the general public back into the toilet. I say they’re both equally terrible.

Racism is not generally accepted in society anymore. If NASCAR gives any indication it is not doing everything it can to silence the backward thinkers who promote such views, the public will rightfully assume the sport as a whole is willing to let racism be a part of the sport.

For his part, Rusty Wallace, Gaughan’s team owner, has put all his employees on notice … If I hear you say anything like that, you’re gone, is his message.
In Berry’s case, there is some dispute about whether he used a racial slur, and he insists he did not. But others say they heard it, so it’s not an open-and-shut case.

In Berry’s case, NASCAR will have to decide what is true and what is not true. But as a general rule, when drivers or crew members decide to use racial slurs, the punishment should be harsh, and involve long suspensions plus some kind of training on how to treat people with respect and move beyond racist attitudes of the past.

The sport has come too far in the past few decades for NASCAR to let these kinds of ignorant outbursts turn back the clock.


Anonymous yankeegranny said...

it is not uncommon for blacks call other blacks the N word.If you think it, just watch most black comedians on TV or the BET channel. If a black member of nascar were to call another member of nascar a N-----, would they be fired, or would it only be a firing situation if a white used the N word? How about if a white is caught listening to some of the current hip hop music which has some of the vilest anti-white, anti-female,anti-police lyrics, Would that be grounds for firing? How about the words Pollock, kike, guinea, pig? There are many derogatory words for many ethnic groups. How about all the words for homosexuals? Is NASCAR going to have a list for words you cannot say on the grounds of any speedway? Will we have a special group of NASCAR POLICE to enforce correct speech? You and nascar are on a slippery slope when you start policing speech, Better you should be concerned about the number of Black children who go to bed hungry every night,and are being raised in drug infested neighborhoods by single mothers than what one man might have said in anger and who is being lynched in the press for maybe saying it. Indefinite suspension , absolutely not, a warning not to say it again maybe.If our country is ever going to really get past the race issue, we need to get past worrying about what people way to each other. Words may be hateful. but I never heard of anyone dying because they heard an offensive word. I do not use words that would be considered offensive, do not listen to what would be considered offensive humor, but that is my personal choice, More than the words themselves, I am truly offended by the media pandering to a special group because it is the politically correct thing to do, I consider myself a color-blind liberal, I have 6 grandchildren, 3 white and 3 bi-racial. I love all of them equally and hope they grow up healthy and happy. They are being raised to be good people,good students and future productive citizens. They are not going to be warped for life if they are called an offensive name.

June 15, 2009 at 1:14 PM 
Blogger Matt Myftiu said...

You make some very good points, and I normally don't like to police speech, but I just see this as a critical issue for NASCAR that they can't let get out of hand.

By reacting strongly at the first sight of racism, it will strongly discourage anyone else in the garage from using racist language.

In the wake of the Mauricia Grant lawsuit, the last thing NASCAR needs is for drivers to think it's OK to talk like that. The sport's come a long way to be more inclusive, and incidents like this can erase decades of progress.

June 16, 2009 at 10:00 AM 

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