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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jeremy Clements' suspension over racial slur a reminder of NASCAR's bad old days

More details are emerging today, as Jeremy Clements spoke to ESPN about his suspension. He said the interview was not recorded, and the only people who heard him say the offensive remark were a NASCAR employee and a reporter from MTV.

In the new report, Clements still doesn't reveal exactly what he said, but says this:
"When you say 'racial' remark, it wasn't used to describe anybody or anything," Clements said. "So that's all I'm going to say to that. And it really wasn't. I was describing racing, and the word I used was incorrect and I shouldn't have said it. It shouldn't be used at all."
" I said one remark about how I wouldn't ... I can't say that part"

Full ESPN story can be found here 


I'll wait to reserve full judgment until all the details come out, but from what is known it's pretty clear that Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements has screwed up big time.

Sources have told ESPN that the little-known driver used a racial slur in an interview with a reporter this past weekend at Daytona. The exact details are not out, but if he did do what the sources say, it's inexcusable.

NASCAR is a sport with a not-so-impressive past in the area of racial sensitivity (see Wendell Scott as exhibit A; they were so backward on race relations that they wouldn't even give him his trophy after he won a race). So to have drivers perpetuate that legacy at a time when NASCAR is starting to work hard on its diversity efforts is something that just can't happen.

If you want to be ignorant on your own time, that's your problem. But when you're a public figure (though Clements was so anonymous I suppose that's debatable), you can't talk that way to reporters. It's not going to end well.

The following statement was issued by Clements regarding his NASCAR suspension:
“I apologize and regret what I said to the NASCAR writer and to NASCAR, my sponsors, my fans, and my team. NASCAR has a Code of Conduct that everyone must follow and I unintentionally violated that code. I will not get into specifics of what I said but my comment to the writer was in no way meant to be disrespectful or insensitive to anyone or to be detrimental to NASCAR or the NASCAR Nationwide Series. I will do what I need to do in order to atone for my error in judgment."

That sounds like a textbook apology written by a PR flak. Don't think it's going to win over anybody, Jeremy.

Because he was a backmarker driver that didn't really represent the sport in any way (I honestly have never seen him interviewed in all my time watching the sport), it will have a limited effect on the sport as a whole, though some on the outside will interpret it (wrongly) to mean that the entire sport is living up to its bigoted past.

Hopefully that's not how most people take it, though, especially since NASCAR is having a zero tolerance policy here. By not letting Clements race for a while, NASCAR is doing the right thing. It's not just good PR, it's the proper thing to do when stupidity rears its ugly head.

As for Clements — he didn't have much of a career to start with; and it's a safe bet he won't have one from now on either.


Here's the full release from NASCAR on his suspension.

"Jeremy Clements, a driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, has been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s Code of Conduct.
On Feb. 23 at Daytona International Speedway, Clements was found to have violated Sections 7-5 (NASCAR’s Code of Conduct) and 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing).
“During the course of an interview, Jeremy Clements made an intolerable and insensitive remark,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “NASCAR has a Code of Conduct that’s explicitly spelled out in the 2013 NASCAR Rule Book. We fully expect our entire industry to adhere to that Code.”


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