The Frontstretch: Side By Side: Should The NRA Sponsor Texas? by Ellen Richardson & Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday April 11, 2013

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Side By Side: Should The NRA Sponsor Texas?

Ellen Richardson & Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday April 11, 2013


Welcome back to a special edition of Side By Side. There are always two sides to every story, and we’re going to bring them both to you, right here, every week. For the first time ever, we’re running a special edition of this column based on one that’s already been run in the Newsletter. Feedback off Ellen Richardson’s NRA commentary, reprinted here was so overwhelming it was a no-brainer to ensure all fans got a chance to read it. It also stirred such passion amongst several members of our staff that a rebuttal is also written against it. Feel free to tell us what you think in the comments section below!

And if you didn’t see Ellen’s column, originally? It’s because you’re not getting our FREE Newsletter. Click here to sign up.

This Week’s Question: Should the NRA be sponsoring Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Texas? Or is it inappropriate?

NRA 500: Racing Or Gun Control Debate?
Ellen Richardson

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series storms into Texas Motor Speedway for the NRA 500 Saturday night, another storm continues to brew off the track. Unless you have had your head stuck in the sand, everyone is aware of the gun debate that has been ongoing in this country since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in Newtown, Connecticut last December. In fact, President Obama welcomed several families, all of whom were directly affected by this tragedy, to Washington today in an effort to try and convince Congress to expand background checks on gun owners.

The National Rifle Association has come under fire by fans this week for choosing to sponsor a NASCAR race during a heated debate on gun control in Washington, D.C.

With this storm continuing to rage, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has decided throw away money in a high-dollar advertising campaign to increase panic among gun owners about losing their Second Amendment rights. The move includes greatly increasing this non-profit organization’s current advertising relationship with NASCAR to sponsor this Saturday’s Cup Series race.

The announcement about this race sponsorship has garnered the attention of national media, political leaders, NRA Members and, of course, race fans. Most of this attention has been very heated and now NASCAR, event promoters, and even Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, say they want the April 13th NASCAR Sprint Cup race to focus on racing and not on debating gun control.

According to a recent article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Gossage said, “It’s another race for us and it’s just like all the others in so many ways.”

WTF? Are you kidding me?

If nobody, on either side wanted to garner the kind of attention that this partnership has, why did the NRA choose a state with approximately 250,000 NRA members in which to sponsor a race? Although I have a background in marketing, it doesn’t take this kind of knowledge to be aware that the move is a huge public relations game where the NRA was hoping to garner the kind of support it needs to end the overall gun debate.

Being a gun owner myself, I am all for our Second Amendment rights, but I am appalled that this nonprofit organization is using their money to sponsor this race, at such a heated time, versus using this money to further their current gun safety programs. While Gander Mountain also jumped on the opportunity to promote gun sales, through their sponsorship of Clint Bowyer, I applaud their doing so to promote gun safety with the slogan “With rights comes responsibility, Secure your firearms” on the No. 15 Toyota Camry. There’s a difference between marketing safety and marketing politics.

With gun control being such a heated topic, I decided to ask a few people directly connected to the world of motorsports their thoughts on the sponsor of this Saturday night’s race, the first of these being Brad Allen, general manager of NASCAR Home Track Southern National Motorsports Park, who is very familiar with the need for track sponsorship funding, but is against a sponsorship of this nature at such a heated time.

“The platform for this type of sponsorship is too political and polarizing,” said Allen. “I want our race track to be a place to get away from the pressures of the world, not be a platform to push an agenda. We strive to keep things impartial for our competitors; we should do the same for our fans.”

Former motorsports champion and author of Dangerous Curves, Terri O’Connell, also feels this sponsorship is too risky for this sport at this time.

“This is a double-edged sword that will, in the end, put NASCAR in a place that will not endear them in the marketplace that they so desperately want to nurture,” said O’Connell. “With a more prevalent vision for this sport, this sponsorship is a mistake. Fortune 500 companies and pop culture media will not be as kind as some motorsports media. The NRA should also keep this in mind with their current PR efforts spinning the logic of big evil is coming for your guns in order to protect their interest. Now NASCAR and Texas Motor Speedway track owners are going to use this logic to try and fill the stands.”

A longtime member of the sports media family, Dave Goren, executive director of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA) and current sports commentator for 88.5 WFDD, claims there’s a high, long-term awareness rising out of the NRA choosing this partnership.

“With the repeated use of the ‘NRA’ name during the broadcasts and the thousands of print and digital mentions before, during and after the race, it seems the NRA is trying to push its brand before the public in a positive, non-confrontational way,” he said. “Only post-event research and analytics will tell if it is successful.”

I am aware that both NASCAR and Texas Motor Speedway are in need of sponsorships for these race events to happen and I fully support that, but it is a shame that the business side of this sport has taken away complete common sense from its leaders. Maybe we will someday get lucky and both NASCAR and track owners will ask their fans what they think before agreeing to something of this nature. Chances are, on this one they would have been met with a resounding “no.”

What can anyone do now? Not much. But if these partnerships are ever going to be stopped, it’s up to fans to continue to chime in. Let’s hope that someday it makes a difference.

Leave The NRA Alone
Beth Lunkenheimer

This weekend, the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Texas Motor Speedway for the NRA 500 Saturday night showdown. But ever since the speedway announced its partnership, last month with the National Rifle Association as primary sponsor of Saturday’s race, people have been up in arms about it. Everyone from fans to media and even politicians that typically couldn’t care less about cars driving in circles have weighed in, claiming that NASCAR is opening up a can of worms. In fact, fellow writer Ellen Richardson expressed her disbelief in the Wednesday newsletter.

Guns have long been part of the tradition after poles and victories at Texas Motor Speedway — as even five-time champ Jimmie Johnson demonstrates.

Today, I’m here to ask a simple question: is it really that big of a deal? Yes, I’m well aware of the gun control debate that looms across this country, especially in the wake of the senseless tragedy that hit Newtown, Connecticut last year. And yes, I’m aware that there have been plenty of other gun-related tragedies; but in the end, is this partnership anything more than just a race sponsor? The simple answer to the question is a resounding no.

As someone who lives just an hour away from the mile-and-a-half track that had struggled much of this year to sell the race sponsorship, I couldn’t help but grin when I first read how the NRA would fill that void. Sadly, that grin melted away almost as quickly because I knew the political firestorm that would follow. Regardless of your own personal beliefs on gun control, this weekend’s race is not about that at all. In fact, TMS track president Eddie Gossage said it best when the partnership was announced.

“It’s not about politics. It’s about sports marketing. [The NRA] saw it was obviously a very attractive sports marketing opportunity and seized it. That’s what it’s all about,” Gossage said. “It’s about putting on one of the great sporting events in America. I know in Atlanta last year, they saluted a lot of the people that make America free. They are going to salute American freedoms and American families with this race. That’s their plan, so it seemed to be a good fit.”

Those comments were echoed by NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre via a video message played at the track’s media day when the announcement was made.

“The NRA 500 is the latest announcement in the long history of a growing partnership between the NRA, Speedway Motorsports and the NASCAR community,” LaPierre said. “NRA members and NASCAR fans love their country and everything that is good and right about America. We salute our flag, volunteer in our churches and communities, cherish our families and we love racing. On April 13, we’ll all come together at Texas Motor Speedway.”

And there you have it. This partnership with the NRA is nothing more than just another race sponsorship. It’s no different than Aaron’s, Samsung, Bojangles or any of the dozens of other companies that have partnered with various tracks throughout the years. The only real difference is that Texas partnering with a polarizing group in the NRA is that so many people feel the need to use it as a political platform. But in the end, Gossage reiterated there’s nothing political about it earlier this week.

“Saturday night no one is going to force any NRA literature in your hands. No one is going to be making political speeches or anything like that,” Gossage said. “It’s going to be a race. We are going to have a winner and have a lot of fun, and that’s going to be the extent of it.”

Now, for just a moment, put the political aspect of the NRA and gun control aside. Each and every facility on the Sprint Cup circuit looks for corporate sponsorship to help offset the many costs that come along with hosting a NASCAR-sanctioned event. And is there any better facility for the NRA to get involved with than Texas? After all, the state does have a reputation of loving its firearms (whether it’s right or wrong is up for debate, but that’s not why we’re here) and it fits in perfectly with how each pole and race winner celebrates. For years now, the pole sitter has taken home a commemorative rifle while the race winner fires off a pair of pistols, loaded of course with blanks, in celebration, and that tradition will continue this weekend.

“Any rational person clearly understands it is part of the celebration and is not any kind of political statement,” Gossage continued. “This is a race, not a rally for any cause. Period. End of story.”

This weekend is just like any other on the NASCAR circuit. The Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series head off to Texas for the first of two visits to the 1.5-mile track, and each series will feature a race winner who will celebrate their victory in the same way he or she would at any other facility. Anyone who thinks NASCAR, or TMS themselves has anything political in mind is just fooling themselves.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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04/11/2013 08:47 AM

100% yes! Why can’t they?

I’m so sick of our constitutional rights being attacked. We have gun laws on top of gun laws and it hasn’t stopped criminals or mentally ill people from killing.

The mainstream press already puts down the fans of Nascar and they will continue to now. That’s not going to change.

04/11/2013 09:41 AM

The scary part for me is not knowing if the guy buying the weapon is a lunatic planning another massacre. It’s not just in the States. It’s happening all over the world and other countries are reacting to it.
When a gun goes off while getting into a car and kills a child, shouldn’t more alarm bells go off, even at the NRA?

Sue Rarick
04/11/2013 10:13 AM

DoninAjax: They make bombs from Deisel and fertilizer… So should we ban those and park the trucks and have food shortages?

It’s a race with a sponsor period and there isn’t a race sponsor that doesn’t tick off at least a few people.

Bob from OCCAL
04/11/2013 10:37 AM

In regard to the attack on our rights, this famous writing is from a Lutheran Pastor in Germany in WWII. It rings very true today with all of the attacks on our rights:
In Germany, the Nazis first came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t Jewish.
Then they came for the trade unionist,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant,
Then they came for the homosexuals,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a homosexual,
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one left to speak for me.”
—Rev. Martin Niemoeller, German Lutheran Pastor

Cliff Ball
04/11/2013 11:01 AM

As a Texan and someone who lives in DFW, I see this as a “Come and Take It” moment in regards to guns. The NRA knows how most real Texans feel, so they probably realized Texas is one of the few places they could sponsor and it not seem all that political, even though that’s what it has turned into.

I’m sick of our Constitutional rights being taken away too, little by little. If those idiots in Washington hadn’t taken away insane asylums, I don’t think guns in the hands of the mentally ill would even be an issue. Now, our Dear Leader uses dead kids as props to push gun control. If Washington was serious, they’d clean up Chicago first and then they should talk to us about gun “safety.”

Just talking
04/11/2013 11:05 AM

Anyone who thinks is not political is naive.

Do you really think the NRA leadership cares about you or the race? Do you really think the NRA cares about the second amendment? No they do not. That is just the nonsense they feed people, including NASCAR fans.

And the fans are being taken advantage of – again.

This is a blatant political statement. What next the MSNBC 500? Imagine the outrage over that.

NASCAR thinks they are winning here. Typically short sighted. The rest of the country will be laughing in dis-belief. To be doing this now!!

I have always known that I am from the wrong part of the country with the wrong politics to be a NASCAR fan. But I grew up watching local short track racing, plus Senior, and I stayed a big fan. But this sponsorship crosses the line from politics to blatant disregard and hatred for our citizens.

Laugh now NASCAR fans, we are stupid and we are liberals and we are Nazis.

This makes me sick.

The Mad Man
04/11/2013 11:10 AM

We allow alcoholic beverage companies to sponsor teams and the pole award and yet nobody decries the fact that drunk drivers kill more people than do guns.

Randy Redstone
04/11/2013 11:57 AM

“This is not an article” this is an agenda. The writers are way off base with their assessment of the situation. “UNBELIEVABLE

04/11/2013 12:36 PM

It says a lot about the state of our country that this article even exist. The decline of our standards and knowledge of the constitution and our rights and liberties in just the last 20 years is astonishing.

Half the population either don’t recognize or care that we are heading towards 20+ trillion in debt and what that means. As long as American Idol is on and they have their “smart” phone then everything is alright with them.

And we have lost entire generations of kids. Boys and girls growing up with no skills to live by. I wish we could bring back the draft to help turn our young boys into skilled men again but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. But they can tell you all about their latest tattoo on their neck.

04/11/2013 12:47 PM

Great comment James. By the way, I have the right to protect myself and my family. I do not need some jackass in DC or anywhere else telling me I can’t do that.

Carl D.
04/11/2013 12:56 PM

The NRA is not some covert black ops outfit. They are millions of ordinary people. It’s your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, and the people in your church. They have a voice and a right to be heard. Or is the first ammendment next?

04/11/2013 01:10 PM

The mere creation of this article casts a shadow that guns are bad. The DC elitist will not acknowledge the real problem that killing someone intentionally is located between the right ear and the left ear. If I use the gun control fanatics rationalize that guns kill people, then forks and spoons make people fat.

04/11/2013 01:20 PM

This message from the writers should not be happening!! This email is
supposed to be about RACING. If the writers want to be political writers, find another venue.

Carl D.
04/11/2013 01:58 PM

Ellen Richardson has two problems with the NRA’s sponsorship of the Texas race. One is that people weren’t outraged enough to make Nascar abd TMS drop the NRA as a sponsor, and the other is that it might be effective marketing by the NRA. She has an agenda and she’s peeved that most of us don’t share it.

Kevin in SoCal
04/11/2013 02:02 PM

I agree with Beth.

And if MSNBC wants to sponsor a race, I wouldnt have a problem with that either.

04/11/2013 02:09 PM

This whole thing is a “lipstick on a pig moment”. I think the bigger issue is how boring the usual Texas Cup race is. SMI knew exactly what it was doing when accepting this sponsorship. They knew there would be controversy, and in Texas any backlash would drive ticket sales. I’m personally not a fan of the NRA, but I could care less if they want to sponsor a Cup race. Their money is as green as the next, and if I was SMI I would gladly take it. I just don’t want another “Texas-Sized” snoozefest on Saturday.

Chris in TX
04/11/2013 02:16 PM

Not even remotely an issue. Next, someone is going to complain that the pole winner at TMS gets a fancy new shotgun as their reward. This has been the case for many years, and hopefully will be for many to come.

And, I’m not a gun owner.

04/11/2013 03:07 PM

While NRA sponsering TMS is fine & legal it is not good for the perception of Nascar or it’s fanbase..Facts don’t matter as this will be a case of perception becoming reality…Personally NRA & TMS should have the right to do as they please & the sales will tell the facts…Probably going to be a Boring race (TMS history) so the attention might drive some sales (but it won’t change the race)..Bad PR is all

Jeff Meyer - FS Staff
04/11/2013 05:06 PM

Well now lets see….as of this posting the voting seems to be 4 to 1 in favor of the NRA.

Democracy in action.
People need to get over it (and the same people..get over themselves!)

Bill Weisel
04/11/2013 05:27 PM

Shame on you Ellen. Using racing to disguise your anti-NRA agenda. You lost another reader, girl. BTW, USA is not a democracy, it’s a Republic. Do your homework…

04/11/2013 05:28 PM

Wow this just amazes me how anyone can say this has nothing to do with politics. When was the last time the NRA had anything to do with NASCAR? I believe it was last year at Atlanta sponsoring a Nationwide race.I’m betting the NRA wouldn’t be doing this if they wouldn’t have the heat on them due to the past events involving guns in this country. Eddie Gossage is putting the owners, drivers, and race team sponsors in the middle by giving the winner the choice of winner’s circle celebration with or without the six shooters. WTF? You all who are going to watch the race think about those little kids when the winner of the race is firing off those six shooters. I’m hoping who ever wins doesn’t do it and sends a message to the NRA. I’ve been a NASCAR fan since the 60s and don’t miss many races, but this is one I’m not planning on watching.

04/11/2013 05:28 PM

I don’t think the vast majority of NASCAR fans have a problem with the sponsorship. I don’t think the vast majority of the complainers would watch a NASCAR race if you paid them. I think it is a lot of blather about very little.

04/12/2013 10:32 AM

Wow! What a liberal weenie dear Ellen. You dear are a shinning example what is being taught at our colleges today. Get your head clear and forget the garbage you were taught in school. Leave the politics to the slim in Washington..

Old Fan Bill
04/12/2013 06:30 PM

The Mad Man makes a good point.

Kevin in SoCal
04/12/2013 06:33 PM

There’s no need to be condescending or insulting to someone who has a different opinion than you. Discuss the opinion, not the person. There is a real live human being with feelings behind that screen, and they care about their issues just as much as you care about yours.

04/13/2013 12:46 AM

“I decided to ask a few people directly connected to the world of motorsports their thoughts..”
No, you didn’t. You wanted to write an anti-NRA rant and went out to find some some racing-related people to give you some quotes to justify publishing it here.

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