The Confederate flag has long been a common sight at NASCAR races, particularly in the infield, where some fans fly the polarising symbol alongside the U.S. flag and banners for their favourite drivers. On Wednesday, the stock-car racing organisation announced it will no longer allow Confederate flags at its races.
“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” NASCAR said in a statement. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR races and events.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 10, 2020
The remarkable move comes as the country grapples with its racist history in light of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the nationwide protests it spawned. On Sunday, NASCAR aired a “listen and learn” video prior the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in which the sport’s current stars like Jimmie Johnson and Bubba Wallace joined icons like Dale Earnhardt Jr. in vowing to “condemn racial inequality and racism” and “advocate for change in our nations, our communities and, most importantly, in our own homes.”
Wallace, the association’s first full-time African American driver on the NASCAR Cup Series top circuit in nearly 50 years, sported a Black Lives Matter T-shirt before Sunday’s crowd-less race in Atlanta.
“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race,” he told CNN earlier this week. “So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
NASCAR issued a toothless request for fans to stop flying the Confederate battle flag at races in 2015, following a white supremacist’s deadly attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina — just 140 miles from one of the sport’s most famous tracks, Darlington Speedway.
NASCAR’s next race is the GEICO 500, this Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Up to 5,000 local fans will be allowed to attend.