SEATTLE — Oh, dear — it seems when no one was looking, NASCAR plunged into the deep end of the political-correctness pool without asking permission. Just what was NASCAR Chairman Brian France thinking, exercising his constitutional right to make a political statement or two?
Thank goodness a recent Associated Press article swooped in with a lifesaver — and a stern scolding for France’s own good. It’s too bad, though, that the sermon’s flawed assertions are no more than a worn-out version of follow-the-leader. (Pardon the yawn.)
If France wants to endorse a political candidate, he has the right to go ahead and jolly well do it. Check the records: Plenty of corporate heads have done the same on both sides of the political aisle.
This is America, which protects free speech. As disrespectful as some NFL players are to upstage the national anthem, they have the right to do so. That behavior has disrupted our enjoyment of football, yet we haven’t marched and chanted and rioted in the streets.
And who cocked an eyebrow when NBA star LeBron James campaigned with Hillary Clinton and continues to rail against President Donald Trump? It casts a partisan pall over basketball, but James has the right to his opinions. Some wondered when Steve Kerr launched an unhinged political rant if coaching the Golden State Warriors isn’t keeping him busy enough.
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The AP article targeting NASCAR insisted “NASCAR, unfortunately, cannot sit on the sidelines and simply watch the cars go round [sic].”
Why, yes — yes it can. That’s what its purpose is: to sanction stock-car racing — and watch the cars go around. It makes obscene amounts of money from folks who want to do just that — watch the cars go around and around. It rakes in cubic dollars from corporate sponsors that count on these folks to watch the cars go around in circles for hours on end nearly every weekend.
“NASCAR needs to be a leader at this critical time,” the author charged. It’s curious that such self-righteous demands overlook the possibility that perhaps NASCAR is behaving perfectly normally. The article subscribes to the theory that “I believe in freedom of choice until someone chooses something I don’t want him or her to choose.”
It’s not a new phenomenon. It’s McCarthyism in disguise — just replace the word “Communist” with “Nazi” or “racist” or “white supremacist.” Many are being falsely branded, often in legally actionable ways, by irrationally sore losers.
Almost everyone has opinions, and all too often people in the public eye express them. We have choices — there’s that pesky word again. We can ignore opinions that don’t match ours. We can whine about them. We can stomp our feet like angry third-graders and demand apologies, history revisions, and “1984”-predicted culture obliteration.
Or we can drop the bullying tactics, be decent and reasonable, and honor another American’s right to have and articulate an opinion. That is supposed to be sacred and supposed to apply to everyone, no matter a person’s political stripe. To deny or refute that right is heading toward dictatorship.
This country is a perplexing contradiction of pitiful brokenness yet shining optimism. We have serious problems but unshakeable strength of spirit.
This national seizure has to stop. We all need to cooperate to tackle America’s problems. The solutions might not suit everyone 100 percent. But a bi-partisan effort can craft significant improvements.
France voiced his personal disapproval of the Confederate flag and that alienated a faction of fans at the opposite end of the spectrum. Maybe those who abhor the Confederate flag could try to recognize something new. That flag can serve as a reminder that we once were so stubbornly divided that we engaged in a bloody and scarring civil war — and, ultimately, remained united.
Perhaps the art of listening could make a comeback. As Dale Earnhardt Jr. was quoted as saying in the AP article, “We’re better than this” … whatever “this” is to you.
Enough said. It’s time to watch the cars go around.