NASCAR drivers reluctant to talk anthem protest at Dover
It should come as no surprise that most NASCAR drivers – Dale Earnhardt Jr. being an enlightened exception – are reluctant to talk about the recent national anthem protests by NFL players.
Those with intelligent opinions – almost certainly only a handful – have likely been told to avoid anything that will bring attention to the subject.
Example No. 1: “I came in here (a Friday press session at Dover International Speedway) to talk about our weekend’s racing and not to discuss that. I don’t really have a comment.” – Chevrolet driver Jamie McMurray.
Example No. 2: “We’re here to race. We can talk about this stuff all day long, but we’re here to race and to try to win a championship for ourselves and our sponsors and our fans. Anything else is just getting in the way for us.” – Chevrolet driver Ryan Newman.
Example No. 3: When asked whether he agreed with his grandfather Richard Childress’ stance that any employee who protest will get a bus ride home, Austin Dillon replied: “I have no clue. But for me, I stand for the national anthem, for those that give us the right to go out and race every weekend. For me personally, when I go out there, I think it’s an honor to stand during the national anthem and have my hand over my heart and stare at the flag. I enjoy that part of my weekend so I can give a little bit back to those who have given their lives to allow me to go race. So, that’s where I stand, personally. I can’t talk for anyone else.”
FYI: none of the 40 drivers and only a handful of crewmen on the grid for Sunday afternoon’s Apache Warrior 400 served in the military. A notable exception is Barney Visser, owner of the series-leading No. 78 Toyota of Martin Truex Jr., who was a combat veteran of Viet Nam. Cursory research doesn’t show any current NASCAR executives who served.
At least Newman offered some background for his refusal to talk about the issue: “The word ‘protest’ is kind of conflicting in my mind. I don’t think there is anything to protest when it comes to why I stand for the American flag. I think it’s all about liberty and justice for all, and the freedom we have. We should all be thankful for that. And if you have the ability to stand, that’s the way I was taught to treat that moment. If everybody else was taught differently, it’s news to me.”
Danica Patrick offered insight and thoughtfulness when asked about employees being fired for expressing their opinion about social issues.
“How you run your business is how you run your business,” she said. “You sign a contract that says you’re an independent contractor or you sign one that says you’re an employee. Maybe it comes down to that, or maybe it comes down to doing your job. You have to figure out what’s more important. If you think something should be done differently and you might sacrifice your job, that’s your choice. It’s your choice the other way, too.
“In general, there’s plenty of platforms to speak your mind. If it comes as interference to put food on your table or doing something you love, I think you should probably go by the rules. There’s a lot of rules in this world. I really don’t drive the speed limit, but I’m supposed to. And even though I have a bigger comfort zone or more ability (driving) than the cop giving me a ticket, it’s still a rule.”