TALLADEGA, AL – For years, the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has been associated with the south. Most of the tracks are in the south.
There are 27 tracks in use in NASCAR. 22 of those tracks host at least one race annually in the sports highest division of competition, the NASCAR Cup series.
Of the tracks in use, 18 races out 34 are held in locations that are considered to be southern states.
Southern tracks in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. But the association with the sport and the south started long before most of these tracks were in existence.
NASCAR started racing in Florida in the 1940’s. The first track specific to NASCAR was built in Darlington, South Carolina.
Equally synonymous with NASCAR has been the Confederate flag. Anyone who has ever been to a race has seen them flying on top of RV’s both in the parking lot and in the tack infield.
NASCAR has recently banned the display of the flag in its events and in the parking lots. And there are a lot of fans that are none too happy about this move.
The street in front of the Talladega Super Speedway saw a procession of Confederate flags prior to race day for the Geico 500.
But the disdain for the decision didn’t stop there. Someone rented a plane to fly over the track towing a Confederate flag with a sign that read, “Defund NASCAR.”
One driver from the NASCAR truck series, Ray Ciccarelli, posted the following on his Facebook page:
“Well its been a fun ride and dream come true but if this is the direction NASCAR is headed we will not participate after 2020 season is over,” Ciccarelli’s post read.
“I don’t believe in kneeling during Anthem nor taken ppl right to fly what ever flag they love.”
His post also referenced NASCAR’s reversal on their stance on kneeling for the anthem. His post has led to death threats to himself and his family. He said that his comments were misconstrued. He did an interview with Toby Christie to try to set the record straight.
“I wasn’t raised the way people are portraying me to be. That’s just not me,” Ciccarelli stated. “I am not that type of person. Just the attack — my wife, my family have been attacked and abused on social media. It’s just heartbreaking.”
Christie asked if he regretted hitting send on the post.
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“I regret how it was misconstrued,” said Ciccarelli.
“I don’t regret my feelings of believing in the national anthem and standing. I don’t like the fact that I was misconstrued about defending the Confederate flag. Because in no way shape or form was I defending the Confederate flag.
“Everything I was saying was the fact that I understand both sides’ feelings toward the flag. My viewpoint, all I was trying to say is how do you take (the flag) from one group and help support the group that it offends and then what do you do to the group that you took it from? Now, they get outraged.”
Ciccarelli said his grip isn’t that NASCAR banned the flag or that they allowed kneeling, but that NASCAR is constantly “changing their stance”.
“I guess I was just sitting there. I had seen the news thing come through referring to, NASCAR now allows you to kneel during the anthem, It just irritated me some,” Ciccarelli explained.
“I believe in standing for the national anthem, and I believe that if you want to kneel during the anthem , you should kneel. It just kind of triggered me, because we’re being told you can’t kneel, now you can kneel. It just set me off.
We’re told one thing that we can’t do, then you’re told you can do. Just to go back, about two years during the Kaepernick deal, NASCAR did release a statement stating that team owners should take action to any teammates that decide to kneel during the national anthem. It was not going to be condoned what-so-ever.”
He said the change of heart from the racing league’s executives came from “out of left field”.
The truck series driver isn’t the only one catching flack.
While Bubba Wallace, the series’ only black driver, came to Talladega with a Black Lives Matter paint job, Kyle Weatherman had some different messaging on his #47 car.
Weatherman’s paint job was displayed last weekend at the Homestead, Florida Xfinity Series race. According to CNN, the car also had a Thin Blue Line flag on the hood.
“The hood of the Camaro bore the ‘thin blue line’ flag, which is an emblem of the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ organization. The pro-law enforcement group was originally formed to counter the Black Lives Matter movement.
Weatherman’s team said it has received wide support from families of officers killed in the line of duty who appreciate the message the car is sending.”
The definition of “counter” as it is used in that sentence is: “to speak or act in opposition to”, or “a thing which opposes or prevents something else”.
Most of our readers know that the concept behind Blue Lives Matter does not run contrary to the idea that black live and every other life matters. All lives matter.
Now, back to the flag.
While we are not here to tell people how to feel about a particular symbol, it is important to note a report done by Cornell University on the public perception of the Confederate flag.
A national poll, conducted in 1992, found that 69% of all Americans saw the flag as a symbol of Southern pride.
Has that changed in the past 28 years?
According to the Cornell report:
“A 1994 Harris poll asked if Georgia and Mississippi should change their flags to remove the confederate flag. Only 21% of the country thought they should, while 63% thought they should not.
In 2011, a Pew poll found that just 9% of the country had a positive reaction to seeing the Confederate flag, while 30% had a negative one, and 58% had neither. Among those respondents who considered themselves to be Southerners, 18% had a positive reaction and 19% a negative one.”
A 2015 CNN poll:
“…found that national perceptions of the meaning of the Confederate flag had not changed since the question was last asked in 2000. Fifty-seven percent of the country saw the flag as a symbol of Southern pride.”
Those statistics do not remove what some people see racists symbolism, nor does they assign guilt to the flag. It is simply indicative to the fact that not everyone in this country sees that flag in the same light.
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