I wish I could have been at Martinsville two weeks ago. Apparently, it was a typical NASCAR crowd. Between the people walking around in white hoods, crosses burning in the infield, rebel flags flying from every vehicle in the place, random gunfire erupting periodically during the event, and any non-white males running for cover to avoid being attacked and beaten, I’m sure I’d have a great time! Just a routine NASCAR weekend, to be sure.
Wait a minute…nobody saw that happen. In fact, none of it actually did happen. But apparently, that is what the folks at NBC thought they were going to see. They dressed up a couple of "Muslim-looking" gentlemen in turbans with hidden microphones and cameras and had them walk around Martinsville. Their hope: typical racist, redneck NASCAR fans would grab them or hit them or at the very least hurl vile, profane insults in the face of these "terrorists." They were sadly mistaken. The gentlemen walked around Martinsville and were treated like any other NASCAR fans. Contrary to NBC’s beliefs, the NASCAR faithful were either cordial or simply ignored them like any other fan in the crowd.
It was refreshing to know that the Martinsville security spotted this ruse early on. Although they didn’t have to intervene because the fans were polite, they were prepared in case some difficulty did arise. It should make fans feel good knowing that security at NASCAR events is in tune enough to see potential problems before they happen, even if they don’t intervene.
The real problem though in this entire scenario is the fact that the folks at NBC, specifically Dateline, obviously still hold onto the stereotype of what or who a NASCAR fan is. NASCAR has been working diligently, often too diligently in my opinion, to shed its image as a redneck Southern sport. They have pushed the schedule to three of the four corners of the country. They lay claim to the second highest TV ratings in sports. They are working tirelessly to diversify their participant base. Despite their efforts, a large number of people who are not NASCAR fans still view the sport as a redneck sport. Newsmen and women, supposed to bring intelligence born out of equality and fairness into our lives, instead think of stereotypes of years past; gap-toothed trailer park denizens sitting around in front of their widescreen drinking Budweiser, shooting guns, chewing tobacco, and making moonshine in their backyard.
Unfortunately for NASCAR, the only way that this image is going to be completely wiped out is with time. When today’s kids grow up, I know their image will be different. Fans in the growth years of the 1980s and 1990s, they will have a modern view of NASCAR from their earliest days. As they continue to reach the age of majority, the public opinion of what a NASCAR fan is will finally be changed to the more diverse image that the sport’s leaders hope to achieve.
In the meantime, here’s hoping the folks at NBC learned a lesson about the sport that they have spent millions of dollars to cover for the last few years. I realize that they are going to try this same stunt at other public sports venues, but it can’t be coincidence that they started with NASCAR. Shame on NBC for trying to make NASCAR fans look bad by basically trying to incite violence for the sake of TV, but most importantly, a big thumbs up to the NASCAR minions who showed them what true fans of an all-American sport are all about. They proved without a shadow of a doubt NASCAR is working hard at making our sport both diverse and accepting, even if it is a little too blind to the sport’s heritage from time to time.
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