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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