For more than a year, NFL team owners have publicly OK’d the decision of their players to kneel during the national anthem in protest. But two prominent NASCAR owners have taken a much different approach.
What did they say?
Two of NASCAR’s biggest names, Richard Petty and Richard Childress, said on Sunday that they would not approve of any of their employees kneeling during the national anthem before a race.
When asked what he would tell an employee who kneels, Childress told USA Today: “Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over. I told them anyone who works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people have gave their lives for it. This is America.”
Petty, who holds the record for most number of wins in NASCAR, drew an even harder line in the sand: “Anybody that don’t stand up for that ought to be out of the country. Period. If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”
What sets NASCAR apart?
It seems that players from most every American sport are joining in solidarity with the NFL after President Donald Trump harshly condemned the protests at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama on Friday. The first major league baseball player even protested Saturday night.
But NASCAR is a sport built much differently than the NFL, NBA or MLB. Not only does the sport have deep southern roots, but its success, and the success of drivers and teams, centers around sponsorship. Companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to sponsor top drivers in just one race, so decisions that drivers and teams make in the public spotlight are very important.
For example, Daniel Suarez, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, lost Subway as a sponsor earlier this year after he did a television segment with NBC Sports where he distributed Dunkin Donuts.
Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed that a segment with Daniel Suarez handing out Dunkin Donuts on a prerace telecast in… https://t.co/28SZq1qg0S
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) September 4, 2017
Sponsorship drives NASCAR — literally. Each comment and move a driver makes in the public spotlight is scrutinized and if something happens that a sponsor doesn’t approve of, teams and drivers lose millions of dollars.
The protests are unpopular among diversified NFL fan base, so one can only imagine what the NASCAR fan base might think.