NASCAR lacks a firm plan to ban the Confederate flag. 'It's going to cause a mess.'

Alex Andrejev and Rick Bonnell, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

When fans return to NASCAR races, the speedways will be void of Confederate flags flying. At least, in theory.

The sport announced Wednesday its ban on the rebel flag, which has maintained a consistent presence atop trailers parked around speedway infields during NASCAR races for over half a century. The sanctioning body said in a statement that "the display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties," a radical move for the premier stock-car racing series whose early history incorporated Confederate symbolism into official events at certain Southern tracks.

"I'm pretty sure that we'll take really strict measures to not allow this to happen," driver Bubba Wallace said on the Today Show Thursday when asked about NASCAR's enforcement plans. "And if it doesn't, then that will be another conversation that I will have."

Wallace, the only African American driver in the Cup Series, has become an advocate for Black Lives Matter and was instrumental in provoking NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag at races. He said he worked with the sport's president, Steve Phelps, to make it happen, but he's unsure how officials are going to pull it off.

He isn't alone.

As the sport embraces a more inclusive tone, claiming it's cracking down on what's seen by many as a symbol of slavery and white supremacy, NASCAR lacks a clear enforcement plan.


In a message to The Observer, NASCAR said it is working with the industry -- meaning the individual racetracks -- to develop protocols around enforcement, but declined to comment on specifics or say whether the ban applies to items beyond flags, such as t-shirts, license plates and bandannas displaying the Confederate flag design often incorrectly referred to as the "Stars and Bars."

Based on trends around the motorsports industry, as well as a comparable instance last year of Major League Soccer banning political symbolism on flags, it's a safe bet that there will be some fans who reject the rules. Rebellion is, after all, woven into the fabric of the Confederate flags those fans hoist.

Before crying foul that NASCAR's new policy infringes on Constitutional rights, be sure to read the fine print.

When fans buy a ticket to a race, what they're actually purchasing is a license, said Jonathan Kotler, a media law professor at the University of Southern California.


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