NASCAR And The National Anthem: How One Sport Has Avoided The Protest Controversy – So Far [Opinion]

NASCAR has largely sidestepped any controversy over players (or, in this case, drivers) taking a knee or otherwise protesting during the national anthem. A handful of drivers, owners, and executives have entered into the conversation via social media, however, and it appears that NASCAR’s collective attitude about the situation is enough to keep the sport in Donald Trump’s good graces – for now.

As ESPN reports, the most recent NASCAR event — Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway — was completely devoid of any national anthem protests. And if anyone had taken a knee, they would have been hard to miss; traditionally NASCAR drivers and their pit crews stand together by their vehicles for the playing of the anthem.

By all accounts, NASCAR isn’t going to be thrust into the national anthem controversy anytime soon. Based on a handful of statements and social media posts made by a few within the sport, the attitude towards national anthem protests with NASCAR seems to range from grudging acceptance to outright hostility.

Coming down on the “grudging acceptance” side is the NASCAR organization itself. In a statement described by Sporting News as “ambiguous,” NASCAR appears to have simultaneously said that Americans — sportsmen included — have the right to peacefully protest, yet protesting the anthem is an outrageous act of disrespect.

“Sports are a unifying influence in our society, bringing people of differing backgrounds and beliefs together. Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events. Thanks to the sacrifices of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion.”

nascar has avoided the national anthem controversy
A NASCAR driver stands by his vehicle during the national anthem. [Image by Chris Graythen/Getty Images]

If the NASCAR organization itself has been equivocal in addressing the national anthem issue, team owner Richard Petty has been crystal clear about his thoughts on the matter. And as WREG (Memphis) reports, anybody on his team who declines to stand for the anthem won’t be on his team much longer.

“Anybody that don’t [sic] stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”

Current owner and former driver Richard Childress was equally direct.

“It’ll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus.”

However, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. was, somewhat surprisingly, sympathetic to national anthem protesters.

Nevertheless, the specter of immediate firing looms large over the head of any NASCAR employee who might be thinking of taking a knee during the national anthem. What’s more, any such protest would almost certainly alienate a fan base that is almost certainly less tolerant of national anthem protests than those of other sports. Simply put, don’t expect national anthem protests to make their way to a NASCAR even anytime soon.

And that’s just fine with Donald Trump, who singled out NASCAR in a tweet, praising its collective stance on anthem protests.

Do you believe that any NASCAR drivers or crew members who refuse to stand for the national anthem should be fired? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[Featured Image by Robert Laberge/Getty Images]