On Wednesday, only two days after Bubba Wallace’s requests were made, NASCAR announced it is banning Confederate flags.
Earlier this week, Wallace, the only black driver in NASCAR’s top series, called for the association to ban Confederate flags at their events. The league stated that the flag would no longer be allowed at all races or presented at any NASCAR properties.
In the statement posted on Twitter, NASCAR claims they aim to promote a “welcoming and inclusive environment” for not only their competitors but fans and the rest of the industry. NASCAR has only had a handful of black competitors in what is now known as the Cup Series.
Previously, Wallace was not specifically bothered by the use of the Confederate flags in NASCAR, but as many black athletes continue to speak out against racial injustice across sports, he felt it was time to make a change. He was able to educate himself on the topic and decided to speak on behalf of those the flag has prejudiced against for centuries.
Wallace praised their actions as he advocated for those made to feel uncomfortable by the flags. He is the first black driver to win one of NASCAR’s top three national touring series in over 50 years.
Wallace acknowledged that although some people claim the Confederate flag is a symbol of heritage, to many, it is a sign of hate. At Martinsville Speedway on Wednesday, Wallace was seen driving with a paint scheme honoring Black Lives Matter.
Wallace, as well as NASCAR, received praise for their actions from fans and new viewers.
Progress Causes Controversy
Since 2015, when NASCAR requested fans stop bringing Confederate flags to its events, they have faced a backlash from fans who feel they should be allowed to bring flags to races. This occurred after Dylann Roof killed nine black church attendees in Charleston, SC.
After this catastrophic event, photos surfaced of Roof posing with the very flag many NASCAR fans proudly wave at races.
After NASCAR’s request was ignored by the public and finally banned on Wednesday, the association faced a backlash from many of its fans. One Twitter user claimed they vowed to continue bringing a flag to every race regardless of new rules.
After the murder of George Floyd and several other black Americans in recent weeks at the hands of police brutality, many protestors have demanded many Confederate symbols be removed in cities and other institutions.
Around the country, many states are beginning to listen and act. On Thursday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that the Richmond-based statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee would be taken down within the next few weeks.
This statue has been a stamp of Richmond, Va., since 1890, as the state is also home to another 110 Confederate monuments.
Protestors have also advocated renaming the military bases with former Confederate leaders’ names as titles. President Donald Trump was quick to denounce his position on Wednesday, claiming he would never consider doing that as these bases represent a “part of a Great American Heritage.”
President Trump’s statements ignore the aspects of systemic racism that so many protests are fighting to address and eliminate. His comments on the topic were met with praise and controversy, much like NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag.
Although Wallace knew NASCAR banning the Confederate flag would cause a backlash, he and the association have acknowledged it was the right thing to do to promote inclusivity and equality in a sport that is already made up of primarily white competitors.
For many, NASCAR’s actions are a sign of progress in the right direction as they have been questioned many times for their lack of black competitors. Hopefully, change continues after the dust settles.