Richard Childress

NASCAR drivers discuss what national anthem means to them

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DOVER, Delaware — Richard Childress Racing drivers Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman both addressed the national anthem and their feelings for it Friday in light of protests by other athletes and comments by Childress last week.

Childress was asked before last weekend’s race at New Hampshire about RCR’s policy for those who would kneel during the anthem. He said: “Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over. Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many peoples gave their lives for it. This is America.’’

Asked about Childress’ comments during a media session Friday at Dover International Speedway, Newman said: “I was doing some deer hunting this week. I drove up to Maryland, and I passed a Greyhound bus, and I didn’t see a single employee of RCR or ECR on it, so I think everything is fine.”

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday how “proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans” for standing during last weekend’s anthem at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Shortly after that tweet, Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted a quote from former President John F. Kennedy that “All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests.” The tweet is his most popular and has been retweeted about 150,000 times.

Both Dillon and Newman also were asked if they thought Childress had taken away any choice for his employees on the matter by his comments at last week (North Carolina law provides sports teams ability to fire employees if they kneel for the anthem). 

Dillon said: “I have no clue. But for me, I stand for the national anthem, for those that give us the right to go out and race every weekend. For me personally, when I go out there, I think it’s an honor to stand during the national anthem and have my hand over my heart and stare at the flag. I enjoy that part of my weekend so I can give a little bit back to those who have given their lives to allow me to go race. So, that’s where I stand, personally. I can’t talk for anyone else.”

Newman said: “I have to say that the word ‘protest’ is kind of conflicting in my mind. I don’t think that there is anything to protest when it comes to why I personally stand for the American flag. I think it’s all about liberty and justice for all, and that’s the freedom that we have, and we should all be thankful for that. And if you have the ability to stand, that’s the way I was taught to treat that moment, was to stand. If everybody else was taught differently, it’s news to me.”

Also Friday, Danica Patrick was in the media center and asked to what extent NASCAR drivers may be treated differently than NFL or NBA players if they took a knee during the anthem.

“Well, I don’t know,” Patrick said. Has every other sport and every other business been surveyed as to what they would do? If we’re only using two sports as an example then it’s just one or the other.

“How you run your business is how you run your business. Either you sign a contract that says you’re an independent contractor or you sign one that says you’re an employee. Maybe it comes down to that. Maybe it just comes down to doing your job. You have to figure out what’s more important to you. If you think something should be done differently and you might sacrifice your job, then that’s your choice. Otherwise, it’s your choice the other way, too. In general, there’s plenty of platforms to speak your mind. So if it comes in interference with being able to put food on the table or being able to do something that you love, then I think you should probably go by the rules.

There are a lot of rules in this world. I don’t really drive the speed limit but I’m supposed to and they can give me tickets. I was thinking I should pull out my FIA racing license next time I get pulled over. I don’t know how well that will go over. There are rules for everybody. Even though maybe I have a bigger comfort zone or more ability than that cop giving me the ticket, it’s still a rule.

Earlier this week, NASCAR issued a statement on the issue, noting freedom people have “to peacefully express one’s opinion.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. explains his actions, comments in recent days

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. says that “I care about the way the sport looks’’ and it is that passion that led him to be vocal on a multitude of issues recently.

Earnhardt discussed his actions the past week, including his tweet about peaceful protests that cited former President John F. Kennedy, during his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast.

Earnhardt’s tweet came after a weekend of controversy about NFL players protesting during the national anthem that was stirred when President Donald Trump said such players should be fired.

Before the NASCAR race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, car owners Richard Petty and Richard Childress were vocal in their feelings of what they’d do if anyone on their teams kneeled during the anthem.

Earnhardt said in his podcast that he felt he needed to speak up.

“I kept seeing a lot of negativity about NASCAR on social media,’’ he said on his podcast. “It’s just the same tired stigma that we’ve dealt with for many, many years. So, I didn’t feel like that Richard’s comments and Richard Petty’s comments were the way the entire sport felt. I think that Richard was talking for himself and through North Carolina law they have the right to do the things that they would do.

“They have the right to their opinion. I just didn’t want anyone speaking for me. I felt like that you could assume that those were my own personal feelings as well. I wanted to make that clear.

“With that said, I stand for the flag during the national anthem, always have, always will. We have an incredibly large military presence at our races. We go above and beyond to show our patriotism and what it means to be Americans and how proud we are of that and how proud we are of the flag and what it stands for.

“No surprise to me everyone at the track stood and addressed the flag during the anthem, which I think will continue. But I also understand that the man next to me, if he wants to do something different, that’s his right. I might not agree with everything somebody does, but it’s their right to have that opportunity to do that. I can’t take that away from them, and I don’t want them taking it away from me.’’

Earnhardt addressed many other topics on the podcast.

— He discussed the penalty after the Chicagoland race to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott and the role social media might have played in that.

— He talked about his comments about burnouts

— He discussed a tweet he published last Saturday that included a cuss word and his thoughts about what he should have done in reaction to Joey Logano’s penalty of having to sit in his car for all of the final practice session on pit road without getting on the track.

— He discussed drivers who bring sponsors to rides.

— He also said where he sees himself in five to 10 years. 

You can listen to Earnhardt’s podcast, the Dale Jr. Download, here.

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North Carolina provides sports teams ability to fire employees who kneel during anthem

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If NASCAR team owners Richard Childress, Richard Petty or any others wanted to fire an employee for kneeling during the national anthem, could they?

Yes.

North Carolina, home to an NFL team, NBA team, NHL team and nearly all the NASCAR teams in the Monster Energy Cup, Xfinity and the Camping World Truck Series, is an Employment-at-Will state.

That means that an employer can fire an employee for whatever they wanted as long as no specific law forbids the action and as long as the firing is not based on age, race, sex, religion, national origin, color, disability or pregnancy.

“You can fire for any reason, good reason or bad reason, that doesn’t violate the law,’’ Dan Bowling, senior lecturing fellow, Duke University Law School, told NBC Sports.

“Someone taking a stance on a controversial political issue like kneeling at the anthem, absent any sort of employment contract addressing something like that … the employer would be in their right to fire them.’’

What about freedom of speech?

“There is no constitution right when we’re talking about expression because you’re talking about a private entity,’’ he said.

Childress and Petty were outspoken when asked before Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway if an employee kneeled for the anthem as many NFL players did.

If someone kneeled on his team, Childress said that person would “get … a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over. Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.’’

Petty told USA Today and The Associated Press: “Anybody that don’t stand up for (the anthem) ought to be out of the country. Period. If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”

Asked if a protestor would be fired, Petty said: “You’re right.’’

Andrew Murstein, majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports told ESPN.com that he would not fire an employee for such an act.

“I would sit down with them and say it’s the wrong thing to do that, and many people, including myself, view it as an affront to our great country,” Murstein told ESPN in a text message. “If there is disenchantment towards the president or a few bad law enforcement officers, don’t have it cross over to all that is still good and right about our country.”

NASCAR issued a statement Monday that reinforced the idea of peaceful expressions.

“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.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. used a quote from former President John F. Kennedy on peaceful protests that has been retweeted more than any other tweet he’s had.

Kneeling during the anthem started a year ago in the NFL with former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who protested social injustices.

The issue gained attention last Friday when President Donald Trump said in a speech in Alabama that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.’’ Trump tweeted about the subject during the weekend and praised NASCAR on Monday for standing for the anthem.

Not everyone has responded as favorably. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, one of only five coaches in NBA history with five or more championships, has been a critic of President Trump.

During the Spurs’ media day on Monday, Popovich addressed Trump’s comments and the reaction of Childress and Petty.

“I just heard a comment this morning from a NASCAR owner and from Mr. Petty that just blew me away,’’ Popovich said. “Just blew me away. Where (Childress) described the fact that he would get the Greyhound bus tickets ready for them to leave and they would be fired. And Mr. Petty, who said people that act the way we saw on Sunday, they should leave the country.

“That’s where I live. I had no idea that I lived in a country where people would actually say that sort of thing.’’

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NASCAR statement notes freedom people have ‘to peacefully express one’s opinion’ (video)

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A day after Richard Petty and Richard Childress spoke out against anyone kneeling for the national anthem, NASCAR issued a statement that noted the United States is a country of “unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion.”

NASCAR’s statement:

“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.”

President Donald Trump, who ignited a controversy this past weekend that involved anthem protests across professional sports when he said NFL owners should fire players who kneel during “The Star Spangled Banner”, singled out NASCAR and its supporters during a series of tweets Monday morning about the flag.

Before Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Childress was asked what would happen if anyone from his team kneeled during the national anthem as NFL players have done and a Major League Baseball player did this past weekend.

Childress’ said anyone kneeling should “get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over. Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.’’

Petty told reporters: “Anybody that don’t stand up for (the anthem) ought to be out of the country. Period. If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”

President Trump tweeted Monday morning his appreciation for those in NASCAR for such comments.

About 30 minutes later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted about the issue.

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Don’t stand for anthem? Richard Childress says get on the bus afterward

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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LOUDON, New Hampshire — While many NFL players kneeled during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games Sunday, NASCAR crews stood along pit road for the national anthem.

More attention has been paid to the issue since President Donald Trump said in a speech Friday that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner.’’

Several NFL players have not stood for the anthem before games to protest the treatment of blacks by police. Former quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the trend last year when he played with the San Francisco 49ers.

Car owner Richard Childress was asked before Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway what the policy was for his team if someone kneeled for the anthem.

“Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over,’’ Childress said on pit road. “Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.’’

Richard Petty told USA Today: “Anybody that don’t stand up for (the anthem) ought to be out of the country. Period. If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”

Car owner Joe Gibbs said he didn’t talk about the issue with his team before the race.

“You’ve got an athletic event and that’s what we’re going to have,’’ Gibbs said.

Car owner Chip Ganassi said: “I like Mike Tomlin’s answer.’’

Tomlin is the coach of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. All but one of his team’s players stayed off the field for the anthem before its game Sunday.

Tomlin told CBS Sports before the game: “We’re not going to play politics. We’re football players, we’re football coaches. We’re not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something he shouldn’t be separated from his teammates who chooses not to. So we’re not participating today. That’s our decision.”

Last year, Austin Dillon talked about how the sport displays patriotism.

“I don’t know how it would go over with the fans – we’re a very patriotic sport,” Dillon said if someone in NASCAR would kneel during the anthem. “I think our sport does a good job of showing that every Saturday, Sunday of showing patriotism and what the flag means. Not only that, we have a lot of military out here each and every weekend.

“I’ve got SEAL guys that will personally text me and say, ‘Hey, thank you for not moving around (during the anthem). … It means a lot to them just to stand at attention.”

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