- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Confederate flag will no longer be allowed at NASCAR events.

The racing league announced Wednesday that it’s banning the symbol from its racetracks — two days after Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s lone black full-time driver, called for the circuit to “get rid of all” Confederate flags.

The change marks a major shift for a sport with deep roots in the South and a fan base that has long embraced the symbol, proudly displaying the banner everywhere, from hats and T-shirts to bumper stickers and flags on RVs, cars and trucks.

“The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” NASCAR said in a statement. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special.

“The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”

Earlier this week, Wallace told CNN it was time for NASCAR to ban the symbol at its racetracks and events. 

NASCAR had already banned the Confederate flag from its race cars and merchandise, but fans were still allowed to display the banner. In 2015, the racing league asked fans to voluntarily end their use of the symbol.

Now, in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed. NASCAR and other institutions — including the U.S. Navy and the Marines — have decided to take a zero-tolerance approach to a symbol that many say stands not for Southern pride but for racism.

Confederate statues around the country have been taken down or are in the process of being removed. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam plans to remove the giant statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond — though those plans were temporarily halted when a judge issued an injunction for 10 days forbidding the removal.

There has been resistance to the movement, including from President Trump who said there was “no way” he would consider renaming the many military bases named after Confederate officers, such as a Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Hood in Texas. NASCAR’s decision will also likely face backlash from some.

A NASCAR Truck Series driver is quitting the sport at the end of the year over the ban. Ray Ciccarelli wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday that it has “been a fun ride and dream come true but if this is the direction NASCAR is headed we will not participate after 2020 season is over.”

Ciccarelli accused the organization of taking sides politically, against its own fans.

“I don’t believe in kneeling during Anthem nor taken ppl right to fly what ever flag they love. I could care less about the Confederate Flag but there are ppl that do and it doesn’t make them a racist all you are doing is [expletive] one group to cater to another,” he wrote, adding that he won’t spend money “to participate in any political BS!! So everything is for SALE!!”

Wallace, who plans to drive in a “Black Lives Matter”-themed car in Wednesday’s race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, told CNN on Monday that the Confederate flag was not worth having an argument over. 

“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race,” the 26-year-old driver said. “So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”NASCAR has not addressed how it will enforce the policy. Since the league restarted during the coronavirus pandemic last month, NASCAR has not raced with fans but are expected soon to allow small crowds back at races in Florida and Georgia later this month.

Victor Morton contributed to this report.

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