Top NASCAR Official Discusses Athlete Protests; Monster Energy Yet To Comment
NASCAR Exec VP & Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell yesterday addressed President Trump's comments, saying that NASCAR has "always supported the country and the flag, but not to the exclusion of other points of view," according to Lee Spencer of MOTORSPORT.com. O'Donnell, speaking yesterday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said, "From our standpoint, we view ourselves as a sport. We want to continue to celebrate the flag but respect other’s opinions. Going forward, I think that’s where we stand. We hope people can contribute or look at NASCAR as something to tune into on a Sunday and enjoy a sporting event" (MOTORSPORT.com, 9/25). USA TODAY's Ellen Horrow notes Monster Energy has "yet to comment" (USA TODAY, 9/26). A Team Penske official said that his squad had "no specific policy on anthem protests." But he added that it is an "issue we’ve never faced and don’t anticipate facing.'" Team Owner Chip Ganassi said that he "liked 'Mike Tomlin’s answer,'" referring to the Steelers' coach, whose team did not appear on the sideline during the national anthem on Sunday, saying that his players "did not want to appear non-unified in their approaches" to it (WASHINGTON POST, 9/26).
GUILT BY ASSOCIATION? Racing reporter Jeff Gluck wrote under the header, "A Difficult Day To Be In NASCAR." Gluck: "NASCAR is the most American sport." There are "patriotic shows of support for the military at the track, thank-yous to soldiers through a variety of VIP access and weekly honoring of families who have lost loved ones during battle." But many NASCAR fans "seem to overlook a very important part of being an American: The right to free speech and peaceful protest." While it "would be nice to stick to sports, that becomes impossible once the president starts tweeting about NASCAR as a political prop." Gluck: "All those associated with NASCAR today are being stereotyped, and it sucks" (JEFFGLUCK.com, 9/25). The AP's Jenna Fryer wroteunder the header, "NASCAR Has Too Many Distractions Amid Playoffs." Two weeks into NASCAR's Chase for the Cup, there has been "little to no talk about the actual racing." Alienating "any part of the fan base -- and potential customers for those sponsors -- simply isn't good business, and it's why you won't see drivers or team members participate in any anthem protests." Fryer: "NASCAR needs to keep its attention on racing, where things are already bumpy enough without a whiff of politics" (AP, 9/25).
MAKING A STATEMENT: In Orlando, George Diaz asks, "Would NASCAR dare fire Dale Earnhardt Jr.?" NASCAR’s "Favorite Son didn’t double-dare NASCAR officials to do so, but he certainly went against the sport’s traditional values on peaceful protest in the wake of the National Anthem thunderstorm engulfing our nation." Diaz writes Earnhardt's tweet yesterday "certainly doesn’t fit in with the rigid mindset of the 'stick to sports' theme in the NASCAR garage." But Earnhardt has "always been his own man who doesn’t quite fit in with NASCAR’s conservative-leaning culture" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/26).