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Bubba Wallace wants NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at races

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace wears an "I Can't Breath / Black Lives Matter" shirt before a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Bubba Wallace wears an “I Can’t Breath / Black Lives Matter” shirt before a NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
(Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

Bubba Wallace wasn’t always bothered by the sight of Confederate flags on race day.

“What I’m chasing is checkered flags, and that was kind of my narrative,” Wallace, the first full-time African American driver in the NASCAR Cup Series since 1971, said Monday in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.

“But diving more into it and educating myself, people feel uncomfortable with that, people talk about that — that’s the first thing they bring up.”

NASCAR issued a statement in 2015 that included a “request” for fans “to refrain from displaying the Confederate flag” at its events. But a request is no longer enough for Wallace. The 26-year-old driver of the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports told Lemon he plans to speak to NASCAR about banning the flags altogether.

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A Confederate flag flies in the infield at Darlington Raceway before a NASCAR Xfinity Series race Sept. 5, 2015.
A Confederate flag flies in the infield at Darlington Raceway before a NASCAR Xfinity Series race Sept. 5, 2015.
(Terry Renna / Associated Press)

“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race,” Wallace said. “So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here.”

He added: “We ask nicely the first time. If they don’t agree, then you have a nice day and get on back on the road where you came from. It should not be allowed. We should not be able to have an argument over that. It is a thick line that we can not cross anymore.”

NASCAR has not commented on Wallace’s remarks. Earlier Monday, the organization tweeted a photo of Wallace wearing an “I can’t breathe / Black Lives Matter” T-shirt before the start of Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, calling the move “a powerful statement.”

Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney were asked Sunday about NASCAR’s Confederate flag issue.

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“I recognize that that flag might mean something different to different people, but it doesn’t mean United States of America to me,” Keselowski said. “But I’m not gonna tell people they need to get rid of it. That’s not my right either. But I certainly don’t salute it or respect it or probably anyone else who feels the same way.”

Blaney said: “Sometimes I feel like the people that wave them mean the negative when they wave them, and that’s not cool. Yeah, I’d love to not see them at the race track, honestly, because it doesn’t make everyone comfortable.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern heritage, but for others it stands for slavery and oppression, which has made it popular with white supremacist groups.

“While a number of non-extremists still use the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage or pride, there is growing recognition, especially outside the South, that the symbol is offensive to many Americans,” the organization states on its website. “However, because of the continued use of the flag by non-extremists, one should not automatically assume that display of the flag is racist or white supremacist in nature. The symbol should only be judged in context.”

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Wallace acknowledged that if a ban happens, “there’s going to be a lot of angry people that carry those flags proudly.”

“But,” he said two weeks after the death of George Floyd, “it’s time for change.”


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