Derek Chauvin

NASCAR drivers taking active role in fight against social injustice

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Ryan Blaney said he took part in peaceful protests this week in Charlotte “just seeing and talking and learning.”

That’s just something that you want to get involved with and support your fellow human being. We all have to treat each other equally. It kind of disgusts me when the race thing comes up and people hate a person for being a different pigment and not judging them by their character.

“That’s just something that I can never understand, but it’s nice that I think a lot of people are really supporting it and it has a lot of traction behind it, and I thought today what they did on the frontstretch was a really good gesture to show how much we support them.”

Series officials stopped the field on the frontstretch before Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and NASCAR President Steve Phelps read a message that included: “The time is now to listen, to understand and to stand against racism and racial injustice. We ask our drivers, our competitors and all our fans to join us in this mission.”

A video of NASCAR drivers condemning racial inequality and racism was then played. Blaney was among those featured in the video.

Many communities have had protests since George Floyd was killed on Memorial Day while in custody of Minneapolis police. One officer, Derek Chauvin, kept his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes and has since been charged with second-degree murder.

The three other officers who did not stop Chauvin from kneeling on Floyd’s neck were charged with aiding and abetting murder. All four officers were fired.

Rookie Cup driver Tyler Reddick, whose girlfriend Alexa De Leon is a person of color, shared his thoughts on Phelps’ address Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track.”

“It’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to say,” Reddick said. “We have a platform in front of us where we’re able to push out and let everyone know where we stand, where NASCAR stands, where we stand as a sport. So it was a great opportunity … as we were sitting there on the frontstretch, there’s been very few moments where I’ve felt so excited, fulfilled and anxious … very fulfilling to be in that position.”

Kevin Harvick, who won Sunday’s race and is featured in the video by drivers condemning racism, said: “Something just has to change, and I think when you look at what happened in Minnesota, it’s just disgraceful to everyone. 

“To be able to have conversations about things, I’m definitely a person that wants to hear a plan that has actions included in it, and just try to support each other and do the things that we can do to try to help our communities and help the conversations because there’s so much that everyone doesn’t understand of what we need to do and how we need to do it. But I can tell you that we need change.”

Brad Keselowski, who also appeared in the driver video, stressed the importance of listening.

“I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I have all kinds of answers, but I think I can agree to listen and try to appreciate other perspectives and, more than anything else, just have empathy,” he said.

“I’ve been guilty and probably still am guilty a lot of times of not doing the best job of having empathy, but in these situations I think it’s really important. I can tell you that there ain’t no fun in seeing everything that’s been going on and I wish we could fix it. 

“We’ve spent the last 300 years as a country trying to fix it and we still ain’t got it right, so I guess that means we’ve got to keep working. Will I have the answer? No, but I think it starts with kind of owning your own box, your own 10 square feet so to speak. If you can’t make a problem better, certainly don’t make it worse. Sometimes I think we make it worse and don’t know we’re making it worse and that’s why it’s important to listen.”

Kyle Busch, who appears in the driver video, said he will have an interview with former Carolina Panthers Jonathan Stewart shortly.

“We wanted to put out a powerful statement and a message, and so I feel like we all did that together with NASCAR, and went well from all of our standpoints, so we’re happy to be able to do that and show our support to the black community,” Busch said of the driver video. “I also sat down this week with Jonathan Stewart, who was a former running back for the Carolina Panthers, and he and I were friends, so we had a good conversation this past week, so we recorded that, and we’re going to do some edits on that and be able to put that out, as well, from my side. Bubba Wallace did it with Ty Dillon, as well, so stuff like that has been happening, and it’s a time for us to take initiative but also to listen and learn and go from there.”

Jimmie Johnson: ‘I am for protesting, peaceful protesting’

Jimmie Johnson
Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images
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Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said he is for peaceful protesting and said “I hope there’s more of that tonight” after Sunday’s Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Some major U.S. cities remained under curfew orders as people across the county and the world protested the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death as Chauvin pinned Floyd’s neck to the ground with his knee.

Numerous athletes from across all sports have commented on Floyd’s death and the protests since, including NASCAR drivers Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez, Tyler Reddick and Ty Dillon, along with Serena Williams, LeBron James, Richard Sherman, and Lewis Hamilton, who stated on Instagram: “We are not born with  racism and hate in our hearts, it is taught by those we look up to.”

Asked about the protests after Floyd’s death, Johnson said Sunday: “I’ve watched it all. The circumstances are just crazy and unacceptable. I am for protesting, peaceful protesting. I hope there’s more of that tonight. I know there are concerns, especially in the Charlotte area, near my home, that they will be protesting tonight.

“The message needs to be clear, but I think being peaceful is really the right way to send the message here. I hope everybody stays safe.”

Johnson spoke up in 2016 when there were protests in Charlotte, North Carolina after a police officer fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott. Johnson said at that time: “I’m a firm believer of gender equality, race equality, and I live my life that way and teach that to my children.’’

Said Clint Bowyer after Sunday’s race when asked about his reaction to Floyd’s death: “It’s very sad. Heart goes out to everybody involved. Just praying for everybody. It’s very sad to see every angle, every aspect, everything you’re seeing. Very, very sad.”

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