Daytona will not ban Confederate flag but will offer flag exchange

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Daytona International Speedway will not ban the Confederate flag but will offer a flag exchange for fans attending this weekend’s NASCAR races there.

“I think the goal of any NASCAR event, and specifically Daytona, we want to be inclusive to everyone,” Joie Chitwood, president of Daytona International Speedway, said Tuesday. “The last thing you want is for anyone to come to a sporting event and really not enjoy that experience because of symbols that really represent things that we’re not proud of.

“For us, we’re celebrating the American Flag this weekend. It’s our nation’s birthday. We’re going to have a flag exchange opportunity. So fans who would like to fly the American Flag, we’ll trade with you on whatever flag you have. We want you to celebrate that flag this weekend.

“Going forward, (we) really have to look at where that other flag goes because it doesn’t have a place in our sport. We’ve got to take a thoughtful process on how we get to that point.”

Chitwood said the track would not ban fans from having the Confederate flag this weekend but would look to what could be done for future events there.

“At this point, with the late nature of where we are, we cannot ban anything, we cannot change our policy,” Chitwood said. “Needless to say, there is a lot of discussion of how we get there and what we can do in the future so we make sure that we celebrate all that is right in this country.”

The action comes in the wake of the June 17 slaying of nine African-Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Dylann Roof was arrested and charged with the murders. Images emerged of him posing with the Confederate flag and wearing symbols associated with white supremacy.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France told The Associated Press last weekend that NASCAR would “go as far as we can to eliminate the presence of that flag. I personally find it an offensive symbol, so there is no daylight how we feel about it and our sensitivity to others who feel the same way. We’re working with the industry to see how far we can go to get that flag disassociated entirely from our events.”

NASCAR previously issued a statement that it supported South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds in Columbia. NASCAR also noted in the statement its “long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon both expressed last weekend their disapproval of the flag.

“I think it is offensive to an entire race,” Earnhardt said. “It really does nothing for anybody to be there, flying. It belongs in the history books and that’s about it.”