I wish more drivers would speak up and not be afraid to do so.
Not just on political or social issues, not only when it’s relevant or convenient, but in general.
It stems from seeing rookie of the year contender Tyler Reddick speaking up in the face of President Donald Trump’s tweet directed at Bubba Wallace, rehashing the noose incident from two weeks ago, falsely calling it a “hoax” and also falsely commenting on NASCAR’s ratings decline.
Reddick’s tweet read: “We don’t need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.” It was coupled with a GIF of Denzel Washington slamming the door in somebody’s face for good measure.
But shortly thereafter, the tweet was deleted, and his regularly scheduled appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio was postponed to the following day, when he addressed the deletion of said tweet, saying that he “[stood] by [his] comments on Twitter and support for [his] friend Bubba Wallace,” but that “after many conversations with the men and women at [Richard Childress Racing], the decision was made to delete the post.
On @SiriusXMNASCAR, @TylerReddick speaks about his deleted tweet. “I stand by my comments on Twitter and my support for my friend @BubbaWallace.” Says he responded emotionally and “after many conversations with the men and women at RCR, the decision was made to delete the post.”
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) July 7, 2020
I mean, he isn’t wrong, right? He did respond emotionally. What’s wrong with that?
I rarely see Clint Bowyer be afraid to respond emotionally to anything, and it’s no coincidence he’s a fan favorite personality-wise. I’m racking my brain for the last time a driver who spoke out, be it something on track or off, and was ridiculed (publicly, at least) for it.
It’s just a part of where we are in society in 2020: where corporate America still rules, because money talks. That’s how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. Heck, maybe forever. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
I can’t be the only one who would like to see drivers be more outspoken and not be afraid to step over the company line, right? There are understandably specific boundaries. For example, Corey LaJoie‘s No. 32 Go FAS Racing machine will have Trump 2020 adorned on it for multiple more races this season. LaJoie spoke on his podcast, Sunday Money, on his feelings surrounding the situation, comparing himself to Burt Reynolds in Stroker Ace when he’s forced to wear a chicken suit due to his sponsor being the one who foots the bill.
Sponsor gives the team money, team pays the driver, driver drives the car. That’s how it works. And LaJoie isn’t in a position where he can say, “You know what, I’m against this specific company/sponsorship, so I’m not going to drive. Good day to you, sir.” That ain’t gonna happen. So he’s doing his job, which happens to put him in a precarious situation.
On the podcast, he all but said he doesn’t agree with the sponsor adorning his car and his firesuit. Because if he did, frankly, the results wouldn’t have been pretty in the short or long term.
But to have a driver delete a tweet with no political undertones whatsoever (@ me, go ahead) because the higher-ups at the team didn’t want to be involved, that’s weaksauce.
Reading between the lines a little here, Reddick was tweeting as a human in support of another human, one that happens to be his friend, who was being attacked for something not of his doing. Falsehoods were being spread about him (again) and he was standing up for his buddy.
I don’t see a problem with that. I guess RCR did. That’s its choice, and it stands by it. Just like Reddick said he stands by his comments in the deleted tweet.
So what’s the point? Everybody knows he said it, there’s screenshots everywhere about it, he’s talked about it. We’re going in circles here.
I’m thankful that some drivers have spoken up publicly in recent weeks given the events that have transpired, be it seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Ty Dillon or anybody else who’s a public figure in the sport.
If the trend of being shy to pull the trigger and say something, anything, when it’s clear that something needs to be said continues, the growth NASCAR has experienced in the last couple months will be stunted.
Actions do speak louder than words, though. I recognize that. Kevin Harvick has been quiet on social media in the midst of George Floyd’s death, the Confederate flag ban and Trump’s tweet, but he was the one who spearheaded the idea to push the No. 43 to the front of the grid and stand in solidarity with Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway.
That’s leadership behind the scenes. Which, again, is GREAT. I just wish more would make it public.
To show the world that NASCAR isn’t changing its policies, ideologies and inclusiveness because it’s trendy and the right thing to do. But because it’s who they are and what they represent as a garage.
I know it, and I’d hope the drivers, crew chiefs, owners and all other members involved know it.
But it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to show that to the public, and when they do, it be uncensored.
About the author
Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.
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