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WAID’S WORLD: NASCAR Indicates It Does Not Need To Be A Part Of NFL Controversy

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I have my political opinions, of course, but I have always maintained that to write about politics accomplishes only one thing: It can be divisive and gain you a few friends and a lot more enemies.

But there are times that can demand response, even if it is reluctant. And as my colleague and friend Jeff Gluck expressed, it can be painful.

In its truest form sports should be free of politics. But that truest form has never really existed.

So today we are witnessing a boiling controversy that involves the NFL and its players, many of whom have decided not to stand for the National Anthem in protest over their perceptions of inequality.

It started with a single player a year ago and has swollen to, in some cases, entire teams.

I daresay that this explosion would not have become what it has if President Donald Trump had not expressed the belief that every player who kneels should be dismissed – “Fire that son of a bitch!”

The NFL expressed its dismay over his sentiments and in response more players than ever took a knee.

The public reaction has been like an exploding volcano. While some say the players are merely expressing their First Amendment rights, others claim they are unpatriotic vermin – and vow to boycott the NFL and ignore its television broadcasts. I suspect attendance and ratings will show a dip.

So be it. In America we have the right to our opinions and to respond to those of others.

My own response is this: Yes, the players are expressing their First Amendment rights. They are free to do so because only the government is barred from interfering with them. The NFL can’t do a thing about it.

However, team owners can. They can indeed fire players who do not follow their official edict not to kneel during the National Anthem. But, as far as I know, only one owner, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, has publicly made such a demand.

My personal belief is that, indeed, players have to right to kneel – as distasteful as that may seem to many.

However I do have reservations. I wonder if they appreciate the fact they live in a country in which they can make the most of their talents and become millionaires. Instead of kneeling they could express their beliefs in more productive, less public, controversial ways.

And I wonder if they have ever thought about how thousands of people have died over the years protecting their First Amendment rights?

Perhaps I am too idealistic.

NASCAR has never had a “kneeling” problem. Fact is, the sanctioning body has never had any sort of difficulty expressing patriotism. Its competitors have done so willingly.

Throughout the OPEC oil embargo, the Iran crisis, the Gulf War and 9/11, NASCAR, its competitor and fan support for their country has never waivered.

Standing for the National Anthem is routine and I doubt that will ever change.

Trump knew this and praised NASCAR suggesting that it knew how things should be done.

I wish he had kept his mouth shut.

I’m sure not everyone shares that sentiment but by speaking I think Trump may have ushered NASCAR into the middle of a controversy in which it does not belong.

It has been suggested that its leaders respond and they have done so. But we wondered, what do they say? Do they need to speak glowingly of the organization? Do they dare respond in such a way that they suggest they are better than the NFL

NASCAR’s statement regarding diversity, its appreciation of the National Anthem and individual’s right to opinions was direct and simple. It needed to say no more. Now let it go.

A couple of team owners have spoken out and said they would dismiss any employee who does not stand. Again, they are free to do so just as they are free to enforce any policies that are not illegal or unconstitutional.

And I daresay that in private, other owners may well have done the same.

I am aware NASCAR is dominated by white Republicans. But do not think for a moment it is devoid of those who support peaceful protest.

NASCAR needs only to go its own way. Nothing will alter the strong patriotism of its members. We all know that. And now that Trump has spoken, everyone knows that.

In one man’s opinion NASCAR does not need to stick its big toe into hot water. Indications now are it will not, thankfully.

Our country is severely divided. We are Democrat vs. Republican, right vs. left, red vs. blue, black vs. white and so forth.

We are not united, not even close to it. And as long as it remains this way we will never accomplish much of anything. We will simply bicker ourselves into inaction and suffer a lack of true progress.

History has proven this. Recall, if you will, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement or the Vietnam War. We either pushed progress back many years or lost outright.

Now, with the addition of the National Anthem controversy, we are at odds again.

It does not need to be this way. United we cannot be beaten.

And, as idealistic as you may deem this to be, united includes the NFL and NASCAR.

I don’t know how, or if, this will come to be.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

Steve Waid

Steve Waid has been in motor sports journalism since 1972, the year he first started covering NASCAR, when he started his newspaper career at the Martinsville (Va.) Bulletin. From there Waid spent time at the Roanoke Times & World as well as NASCAR Scene, where he was the executive editor for 10 years. After retiring in 2010 he became the Vice President of Unplugged Auto Group for its website, MotorsportsUnplugged.com and has now joined POPULAR SPEED as an editor and columnist. Waid has won numerous writing awards and other such accolades. In January of 2014 he was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame.