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Brandon Brown, the NASCAR driver whose name has become part of a protest cry against President Joe Biden, told New York Times columnist Ben Smith that he has "zero desire to be involved in politics." But that won't stop him from speaking out about issues he knows people care about.
In a recent interview, Brown broke his silence about the rabidly popular political catchphrase that shares his name, created in an infamous moment on Oct. 2 when an NBC sports reporter said a crowd chanting "f*** Joe Biden" was cheering, "Let's go, Brandon."
The 28-year-old driver didn't know what the crowd was chanting either. Smith wrote that Brown was still coming down from the adrenaline high of winning his first-ever NASCAR victory at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala. “This is a dream come true! Wow! Talladega! Dad, we did it!” Brown, exuberant, proclaimed in the post-race interview.
Little did he know that "Let's go, Brandon!" would soon be slapped on T-shirts, chanted at conservative political events, and used by Republicans with a wink and a nod as a coded message of defiance against the 46th president of the United States. In fact, Brown told the Times he didn't realize his name had become a meme until he checked Twitter after the race.
Smith wrote that Brown, a Republican, thought the meme was "kind of funny" at first, but he soon realized that it wasn't going away and that being connected to something as divisive as politics could jeopardize his corporate sponsorships and NASCAR career.
“Our whole navigation is, you want to appeal to everybody, because, all in all, everybody is a consumer,” Brown said. “I have zero desire to be involved in politics.”
He also doesn't particularly like the fact that his name is being used as a substitute for the F-word.
“I don’t want it to just be the substitute for a cuss-word,” Brown said, before reconsidering. "I mean, if it’s making it more polite, then, by God, I guess, go ahead.”
Smith wrote that a spokesman for Brown's racing team reached out to the Times after realizing that "waiting out the storm wasn't working" and "his silence on the matter seemed to be a political statement."
Brown emphasized that he doesn't want to be political. He just wants to focus on racing, but since his name has gone viral, he's been thinking about how to turn "Let's go, Brandon" into something positive.
To that end, Brown authored an op-ed that was published in Newsweek on Monday, discussing why he's been quiet until now.
"All the advice I got from those around my racing career was to stay quiet after that now-famous interview. No one knew how my sponsors would react and, in my world, there is no car to drive without the sponsors," Brown wrote.
"I was afraid of being canceled by my sponsors, or by the media, for being caught up in something that has little to do with me," he said.
Brown wrote that he's spent the last few weeks trying to understand why so many people have latched on to "Let's go, Brandon" as a protest chant.
"I understand that millions of people are struggling right now and are frustrated. Struggling to get by and struggling to build a solid life for themselves and their families, and wondering why their government only seems to make it worse. People have a right to frustration—even anger," he said.
He mentioned that as a NASCAR driver, inflation and "$4 per gallon gas" has hit him hard and that millions of "middle-class folks like me" are struggling with rising costs.
"I have no interest in leading some political fight. I race cars. I am not going to endorse anyone, and I am certainly not going to tell anyone how to vote," Brown wrote.
"But I'm also no longer going to be silent about the situation I find myself in, and why millions of Americans are chanting my name. I hear them, even if Washington does not."
He said that moving forward, "I am not going to hesitate to speak about issues I am passionate about, or the problems we face together as Americans."
Brown doesn't want to tell people how to vote. But he wants to use his free time to address the struggles every American shares and to voice the concerns of millions chanting his name.
He also suggests a new chant: "Let's go, America."
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