President Donald Trump tweeted his support of NASCAR on Monday morning while Dale Earnhardt Jr. took a stance in favor of peaceful protests about 30 minutes later.
The 14-time most popular driver used a quote from John F. Kennedy in a tweet.
President Trump, who ignited a weekend controversy 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 this morning about the flag.
Team owners Richard Childress and Richard Petty both told reporters before Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that they would fire team members who took a knee during the anthem as a show of protest.
Earnhardt cited comments by team owners when cautioned by a Twitter user about broaching the topic.
NASCAR issued a statement Monday afternoon.
“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.”
During his weekly appearance on SiriusXM’s “The Morning Drive,” NASCAR senior vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell addressed whether NASCAR had a policy on respecting the anthem.
“I think it’s something that we’ve always talked about in the industry as a sport, if you look at our history, we’ve always as a sport demonstrated a respect for the American flag and the freedoms it represents,” O’Donnell said. “We celebrate the servicemen and women who have sacrificed to be part of that. That’s part of the sport. From our standpoint, we view ourselves as a sport and want to continue to celebrate the flag but respect others’ opinions.
“But going forward, that’s where we stand, and we’ll leave it at that and hope people can contribute or look at NASCAR as something to tune into on a Sunday and enjoy a sporting event.”
Brad Keselowski, who carries an American flag in his car during victory celebrations, also addressed the protests on Twitter late Sunday night.