NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace called Tuesday for the racing body to ban Confederate flags from its events as anti-racism protests continue to swell across the nation after the police killing of George Floyd.
“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags,” Wallace said during an interview with CNN. “Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
Wallace, 26, is the first full-time Black driver in the sport’s top level since 1971 and was the first winner of one of NASCAR’s national series in more than 50 years during a series race in 2013. He drives the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports and said Tuesday that, although he wasn’t always troubled by the Confederate flag, he’s been educating himself and said many people uncomfortable with the symbol “bring up” its frequent appearance at races.
“What I’m chasing is checkered flags, and that was kind of my narrative,” the driver told CNN’s Don Lemon. “But diving more into it and educating myself, people feel uncomfortable with that, people talk about that ― that’s the first thing they bring up.”
NASCAR asked its largely white, Southern fan base to stop bringing the flag to races back in 2015, but, as The New York Times notes, many have refused to do so and it remains a common sight at the events. There will be no fans at NASCAR events until at least June 14 due to ongoing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
Wallace’s car was also updated with a Black Lives Matter paint scheme this week, a move the driver said would help fans “hopefully get a better understanding” about the ongoing protests and calls for racial justice and systemic change in policing. The hood of the car will include a painting of two hands, one Black and one white, clasped with the words “compassion, love, understanding” stenciled below it.
“There’s going to be a lot of angry people that carry those flags proudly, but it’s time for change,” Wallace said of his calls for the racist symbol to be banned. “We have to change that, and I encourage NASCAR ― we will have those conversations to remove those flags.”
Symbols linked to America’s history of racism have been targeted by protesters with renewed force amid the protests over the death of Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis last month. Demonstrators have called for Confederate monuments to be taken down and the U.S. Marine Corps banned its troops from displaying the Confederate flag earlier this month, saying it had been “all too often … co-opted by violent extremists and racist groups.”
The Pentagon is also reportedly considering renaming Army bases that honor Confederate generals.