NASCAR may have unofficially banned the Confederate flag from all its racetracks, but that doesn’t mean fans are going to comply.
Take Gene and Gerry Baker. The North Carolina natives flew the stars and bars off their RV at the Daytona International Speedway infield this week and said any attempts to stop people from joining them would likely backfire, NBC News reported.
The association’s decision comes on the heels of similar calls among state governments, retailers, even a TV network, in a spate of anti-Confederate sentiment that has swept the nation following the shooting deaths of nine black people at a South Carolina church by a white man named Dylann Roof, the New York Times reported.
The Bakers condemned Roof’s actions, but Glen likened the banning rules to gun control.
“If the guy had been holding a Bible, would everyone want to ban a bible or something? Where does it stop and common sense take over a little bit? This is because we have one idiot that held the Confederate flag instead of the American… or the bible. (It) didn’t hurt anybody. It’s just like trying to outlaw guns. It’s not the guns that do the killing, it’s the idiots that shoot them.”
Others at Daytona said much the same — that asking people to remove their flags isn’t right, and promising to buy a fresh one if they did, Click Orlando reported.
Since NASCAR announced its decision — backed by the sports’ most famous drivers — it has set up a program that will let fans exchange their Confederate standard for an American; no one had taken NASCAR up on the offer at Daytona.
This isn’t a firm ban, but tracks can declare the flag as offensive, and if someone complains, those flying it would have to take it down. NASCAR has also put their support behind South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s efforts to have the Confederate flag removed from state house grounds.
“We’re all trying to be, as we should, the most inclusive sport that we can, and you can’t say that on one hand and then fly a very offensive flag to an entire race of people on the other,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a statement.
Driver Jeff Gordon called the choice “a delicate balance,” since the sport has a lot of southern devotees. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a bit more direct in his comments.
“I think it’s offensive to an entire race. It does nothing for anybody to be there flying, so I don’t see any reason. It belongs in the history books, and that’s about it.”
Back in Daytona, Gerry Baker repeated what has become a mantra for defenders of the Confederate flag — that it represents southern heritage and is not meant as a symbol of hate.
“I have a rebel flag bathing suit as a matter of fact. Are they going to make me take it off if I put it on? That’s just the way I grew up. I grew up in the country and was Southern-raised and born. It’s pure country. I’ve been a NASCAR fan all my life. We’re not flying it for controversy. Every race, we fly it. We’ve got the American… the rebel… the POW. It all to me goes together. Our freedom.”
[Photo Courtesy Patrick Smith/Getty Images]