The ongoing protests in relation to the deaths of several unarmed African-Americans have once again placed a spotlight on controversial symbols in the United States, most notably the Confederate flag and statues. While the flag has been adopted by many around the country as a symbol of Southern heritage, it is still viewed as a symbol of oppression and racial animosity towards Black Americans.
NASCAR, which recently returned to action after a pause due the coronavirus pandemic, is no stranger to criticism regarding the flag and its track record on race. Though it has made some inroads with diversifying its racing teams, the 'Stars and Bars' can still be seen among the fans at multiple tracks around the nation.
What the racing organization should do about fans who display the flag remains a debate, even among drivers. Speaking after the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Brad Keselowski believes that despite his dislike for the flag, he would not tell a fan to throw it away.
"I only salute one flag and that's America's," said the Michigan native. "I recognize that that flag might mean something different to different people, but it doesn't mean United States of America to me. But I'm not gonna tell people they need to get rid of it. That's not my right either. But I certainly don't salute it or respect it or probably anyone else who feels the same way. But, at the end of the day, it's not our call."
His teammate, Ryan Blaney, offered a different point of view. Blaney, who marched with protesters in Charlotte, believes fans who fly the flag on race day embrace the negative connotations associated with it.
"As far as the Confederate flags go, they had that trade your flag in, and I think everyone has their beliefs," explained Blaney. "It's tough, but I don't really enjoy it because sometimes I feel like the people that wave them mean the negative when they wave them, and that's not cool.
"Yeah, I'd love to not see them at the race track, honestly, because it doesn't make everyone comfortable, so that's kind of where I stand on that. Bring your 50 stars flag; I think that would be way better."
Both Team Penske drivers have spoken about the death of George Floyd on social media as well as participated in a NASCAR video where racers spoke out against racism. While on the surface many drivers agree that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, it appears that there is still room for discussion when it comes to symbols of America's darkest hour.