Confederate flags have long been prominent at NASCAR races. After all it, was bootlegging “rebels” racing souped-up stock cars on public highways or dirt tracks that eventually became the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

When the Cup Series started in 1949, a majority of races were held in southern states.

When Darlington (South Carolina) Raceway was added to the Cup Series schedule in 1950, it created the tradition of “Johnny Reb,” a man dressed in a Confederate soldier’s uniform and carrying a Confederate flag on a pole.

The winner of the race would wait for “Johnny Reb” to get on the hood of his car for the short ride to Victory Lane, while the character would proudly wave the flag.

For many, the Confederate flag is a symbol of their “southern pride.” But many others see the flag as an offensive symbol of those who fought to protect slavery and segregation.

The nation is currently in the midst of taking a long, hard look at itself and its heritage, its symbols, and attitudes. How do we acknowledge and accept our history, however painful, and move forward?

NASCAR has decided “the display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.” NASCAR said it is “working with the industry to develop protocols around enforcement,” but declined to comment on specifics or say whether the ban applies to items beyond flags, such as T-shirts, license plates and bandannas.

It’s one thing to take the flag off cars and buildings. It’s quite another to stop fans from waving the flag or banners, or wearing articles of clothing.

Does trying to stop people from doing something make them want to do it even more? Or will people stop for a moment to think about the symbolism of the flag, and how it might be perceived by their fellow Americans?

To some this flag ban may feel like an infringement of their First Amendment right to free speech. But it’s important to remember the First Amendment says “CONGRESS shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” But private enterprise is something else.

According to Jonathan Kotler, a media law professor at the University of Southern California, when you buy a ticket to a NASCAR race, you’re actually purchasing a license to attend, subject to their rules and regulations for attendance.

For example, a ticket for last year’s NASCAR playoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway says the venue may refuse admission or eject any person whose conduct is deemed disorderly, or anyone who does not comply with its terms, without a ticket refund.

“Charlotte Motor Speedway reserves the right to add or change these rules,” the ticket reads. “By use of this ticket, (the) holder consents to a reasonable search for alcohol, drugs, or other prohibited items” — which presumably will now include the Confederate flag.

Is banning the display of the flag going to actually change people’s ingrained beliefs? Or are we just doing window dressing on a much larger social, economic and cultural issue?

Quaker Oats is scrapping its Aunt Jemima branding. Now Uncle Ben’s and Cream of Wheat are rethinking the images used on those products.

What do you think it will change?

2 Responses

  1. Kathi

    You let these rioters tear down France’s scott key. And southerners aren’t allowed to show their own flag. Just makes me sick. Why

    Reply
  2. Debbie Bragg Bellisari

    NASCAR is officially done in our home! I have southern roots! To bad they aren’t remembering theirs! That flag represents hate to some, but to others it’s not.. you choose to get political and jump in to that mess. Stick to making cars go in a circle. See if the people you are taking the flag away for buy your tickets and merchandise.

    Reply

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