"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," the company 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."
Supporters of the Confederate flag, which is officially known as the Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag, argue that it's a historical artifact synonymous with Southern pride. Conversely, critics suggest it's a symbol of America's history of slavery and black oppression.
NASCAR's decision received praise on social media from many, including People for Bernie, an activist movement that supported former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Other users suggested that the company was going to lose fans for its decision, which some suggested was bowing to political correctness
The announcement comes just one day after NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace called on the company to ban the Confederate flag at its events. Although Wallace said the flag had never bothered him, he suggested that many people are uncomfortable with the image. Wallace's comment came amid protests over the killing of George Floyd, an African American who was killed after white officer Derek Chauvin restrained him with a carotid hold, as reported by The Los Angeles Times.According to Yahoo Finance, NASCAR has long agreed with Wallace's sentiments. While the Confederate flag is likely popular with a small demographic of current fans, the publication notes that its presence is undoubtedly driving other demographics away.
Yahoo Finance also noted that NASCAR has struggled with smaller crowds and less sponsor money over the years, which have run parallel to declining viewership. In particular, weekly viewership dipped from 5 million in 2015 to 3 million in 2019.
"The sport needs to find a way to appeal to the most potential fans as possible … without losing the ones it already has," the report reads.
NASCAR's decision comes as the U.S. military faces pressure to rename the bases named after Confederate leaders who fought for the institution of black slavery in the Civil War. Although President Donald Trump has yet to comment on NASCAR's decision, he vehemently defended the military and said Wednesday that the bases would not be renamed, NBC News reported.