Chris Murphy Tells Fox, Murdoch Not to Air NRA NASCAR Race

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks at a gun violence conference as U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., left, listens in Danbury, Conn., Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. The conference, organized by members of the state’s congressional delegation is to push President Barack Obama’s gun control proposals. Credit: AP

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy does not like the NRA, and he’s making that quite clear. In a letter to News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, he’s asking that Fox cancel plans to air Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race — because the NRA is sponsoring it.

Murphy wrote that the race is taking place during Senate consideration of legislation to reduce gun violence in the wake of the elementary school shootings last December in Newtown, Conn., and feared the race will give national attention “to an organization that has been the face of one side of this heated debate.”

Fox officials declined comment Thursday. The NRA 500 from Texas Motor Speedway will be broadcast as scheduled.

Murphy also questioned the Victory Lane tradition at Texas, where the winner gets a cowboy hat and can fire six-shooters loaded with blanks into the air.

“This celebration of guns is inappropriate in the immediate wake of the Newtown massacre,” Murphy added. “But most importantly, broadcasting this race, which will highlight the NRA and its radical agenda during this time, sends a harmful signal to the families affected by gun violence, as well as the millions of Americans who support sensible gun control measures and enjoy your sports programming.”

“I think the fact that they’re not loaded is a fairly safe thing,” said Eddie Gossage, the president of Texas Motor Speedway, in response to the victory celebration.

Gossage has repeatedly said that the NRA’s sponsorship is “not about politics. It’s about sports marketing.” He said he has received fewer than a dozen cards, letters or emails about the deal since it was announced last month.

Chris Murphy Tells Fox, Murdoch Not to Air NRA NASCAR Race

FILE – In this Nov. 4, 2012, file photo, Jimmie Johnson fires blanks out of a pair of revolvers as he celebrates his win in Victory Lane following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, in Fort Worth, Texas. Credit: AP

But that’s not good enough for Murphy. He told Murdoch “your company would now essentially endorse the NRA’s extreme position against such laws by broadcasting this event.”

This is not the NRA’s first title sponsorship in NASCAR. The group sponsored a second-tier Nationwide race last September at Atlanta, which like Texas is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc.

Asked about ticket sales for Saturday night’s race, Gossage said he expects a similar crowd to last spring when the crowd of 159,200 was the largest for a NASCAR race last season.

“I can’t speak for everybody but I can speak for myself in saying that I would really rather stay out of politics and just race,” said NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion, who owns rifles. “That is certainly not the situation though. Sometimes we get thrown into it whether we want to or not. I think the best thing is just to acknowledge it and try to move on with it.”

You can read the full letter from Murphy to Murdoch below:

Dear Mr. Murdoch:

I write today to urge you to not broadcast NASCAR’s NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 13th.  This race, which is being sponsored by the National Rifle Association (NRA), is going to take place during the Senate’s consideration of legislation to reduce gun violence. The race not only brings national attention to an organization that has been the face of one side of this heated debate, it also features the live shooting of guns at the end of the race. This celebration of guns is inappropriate in the immediate wake of the Newtown massacre. But most importantly, broadcasting this race, which will highlight the NRA and its radical agenda during this time, sends a harmful signal to the families affected by gun violence, as well as the millions of Americans who support sensible gun control measures and enjoy your sports programming.

The horror that unfolded on December 14th at Sandy Hook Elementary School has sparked a national conversation about the adequacy of our gun laws.  You, News Corporation and its subsidiaries, including Fox News, should contribute and continue to cover this discussion. Given that you have been outspoken in your support of gun reform, it is the height of irony that some would perceive that your company would now essentially endorse the NRA’s extreme position against such laws by broadcasting this event.

Shortly after the tragedy in Newtown, you called on policymakers and the President to strengthen our gun laws, asking, “when will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons?” This valid question will be answered when the Senate considers major reforms to our gun laws in early to mid-April.  As a senator, I can tell you that many of us possess the courage, and will strongly advocate for sensible gun reforms to take assault weapons and high-capacity magazines off our streets and require all gun purchasers to submit for a background check.

You also challenged President Obama to show bold leadership on this issue after he addressed the nation.  I believe that the President has shown incredible leadership since the tragedy by trying to help our country, my state, and the community of Newtown heal in the wake of this terrible event.  I would like to make a similar challenge to you.  You should play a constructive role in our national dialogue by refraining from broadcasting the NRA 500.  By airing this race you will be strengthening the brand of a radical organization that is currently standing in the way of meaningful progress on this issue. Today’s NRA bears little resemblance to the one of its founding.  It stokes fear and perpetuates a perverse interpretation of the Second Amendment in order to sell more guns and fuel larger donations from gun manufacturers.  After the events of Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek, and so many other senseless tragedies, the NRA continues to say that the only solution to gun violence is more guns.  It even disavows common sense measures, like universal background checks for gun purchases – a policy that enjoys the support of 74 percent of its members and that it advocated for in 1999.

Considering your support of sane gun control measures and the extreme nature of the NRA, I urge you to not broadcast this race on April 13th.  Inserting Fox Sports in this debate at this critical time will give credence to an extreme organization that is opposed to reasonable policies to stem gun violence. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

​The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: ​TheBlaze will be sending two reporters to the NRA 500 on Saturday. Be sure to check back this weekend for full coverage.