NASCAR to allow peaceful protests during national anthem

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NASCAR has removed guidelines that team members must stand for the national anthem, opening the way for peaceful protests during pre-race ceremonies.

NASCAR eliminated the guidelines before last weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. NASCAR official Kirk Price kneeled during the invocation and raised a fist. Price, who served on active duty in the U.S. Army for three years, remained kneeling during the anthem while he saluted the flag.

Bubba Wallace praised Price in an interview this week on CNN.

“If I would have seen it, I would have went there and stood next to him, kneeled next to him because it’s such a powerful move,” said Wallace, the lone black driver competing in NASCAR’s top series. “A man, an incredible man, who has served our country, kneeling down. People think it’s disrespecting the flag and going against our military, and it’s definitely not.

“I was so uneducated what the kneeling meant when it started but now reading about it and what it stands for … and I’m still doing a lot of learning myself, don’t get me wrong, I don’t know everything about what’s going on in the world but that’s what we are trying to deliver the message. Listen and learn to be able to better educate ourselves.”

NASCAR’s change on requirements for team members during the anthem was first reported by Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports. The Cup Series races tonight at Martinsville Speedway (7 p.m. ET, FS1).

Previously, crew chiefs were given a handout at the driver/crew chief meeting that included the following at the bottom of the page:

DRIVERS AND CREW CHIEFS, please advise all your Team members: Conduct during the playing of the National Anthem, taken from the US Flag Code. When the flag is displayed – all persons should face and stand at attention with their right hand over their heart – persons should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart – when the flag is not displayed – all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.

That section has been eliminated. The change in policy comes less than three years after two car owners said they were against protest during the national anthem.