National Anthem

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. 

President Trump honors Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 team at White House

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President Donald Trump praised the performance of Martin Truex Jr. and his team, thanked NASCAR Chairman Brian France for his support and lauded the sport’s patriotism in a ceremony Monday at the White House honoring Truex’s 2017 Cup title.

President Trump was accompanied to the ceremony by Truex and Sherry Pollex, Truex’s longtime girlfriend.

President Tump noted that “the entire NASCAR field spent 2017 chasing (No.) 78. I’ll tell you, I’d be watching and they would be chasing you.’’

He later said: “Never giving up is a story of the 78 team and is a story that will forever be told in NASCAR.’’

President Trump acknowledged crew chief Cole Pearn.

“Chief, pretty tough job, right?’’ President Trump said.

President Trump also praised Pollex.

“I also want to take a moment to recognize the amazing Sherry Pollex,’ he said. “She is the love of Martin’s life. As many of you know Sherry has bravely battled ovarian cancer. She is an incredible woman. Sherry, you’re determination in the face of adversity has been an inspiration to millions of Americans who know what you’re going through. … You are SheryStrong and we are praying for you, and we’re deeply honored to have you here today.’’

President Trump spoke about France, who attended the ceremony.

“My good friend Brian France is here,’’ said President Trump, who was endorsed by France at a Feb. 2016 rally in Georgia. “He is doing a fantastic job. I’ve had him for my friend for a long time, Martin, you wouldn’t believe that right? Different sides, different states slightly, but we liked each other right from the beginning.

“Brian, thank you very much for being here. Congratulations on everything that has happened. … Brian has been with us since the beginning like so many others that love NASCAR. He’s been really a supporter right from the beginning. He said, we support Trump and so I want to thank you very much Brian. That was incredible. That meant a lot, thank you.’’

President Trump noted the sport’s patriotism.

“This lively sport reflects our national spirit and our can-do attitude,’’ he said. “At every NASCAR race, you will see thousands of patriotic Americans from the grandstands to the pit stalls proudly waving our flag and roaring with joy at the words ‘Start your engines’

“I will tell you one thing that I know about NASCAR. They do indeed, Brian, stand for the playing of the national anthem. Right? They do indeed. Somebody said ‘Maybe you shouldn’t say that, that will be controversial.’ I said, ‘That’s OK NASCAR is not going to mind it at all,’ right fellas? They don’t mind it at all.’’

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Nate Ryan recaps how NASCAR drivers addressed national anthem controversy

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Prior to Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway, Nate Ryan joined “Countdown to Green” to recap how those in the NASCAR community addressed this week’s narrative surrounding peaceful protests during the national anthem at NFL games.

Ryan also explains NASCAR’s tradition with the national anthem and how it changed starting at Dover, which held the first Cup race following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Watch the full video above.

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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Brad Keselowski tweets on anthem protests, ‘false narrative of choice between patriotism and racism’

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Brad Keselowski posted a series of tweets Tuesday night commenting on the controversy surrounding the peaceful protests by NFL players during the playing of the national anthem over the weekend and on Monday.

Keselowski’s tweets come two days after the protests were met by critical comments from NASCAR owners Richard Childress and Richard Petty and a day after Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted his support for the peaceful protests.

Keselowski posted six tweets, the first containing a screenshot of a column written at the Huffington Post with a headline claiming that “White Athletes Still Standing For the Anthem Are Standing For White Supremacy.”

Keselowski, who holds an American flag in his car while celebrating a race win, told friends and fans “I support your civil rights 100%” and “PLEASE DON’T believe this,” referring to the headline.

Here are Keselowski’s tweets edited together:

“My reps want me to stay out of this, I CAN’T. 2 all my friends & supporters, I support your civil rights 100%. PLEASE DON’T believe this. I #Choose2honor our country and hope other do too out of respect and love for a country that has provided us so many blessing. Sure our country isn’t perfect (far from it), the list of misgivings is tremendous, but I hope you can see the positives & honor it as well.

“Please don’t believe that when we stand it’s out of disrespect to civil rights; it is and always will be out of respect and love for our (American flag). I plan to stand and sing the national anthem with my family as long as we are able, every chance possible. I hope you will too. So please don’t fall for the false narrative of choice between patriotism and racism. It’s simply not the case.”

Keselowski’s original tweets follow.