Calling the Confederate flag an "insensitive symbol" he personally finds offensive, NASCAR chairman Brian France said the sport will be aggressive in disassociating the symbol from its events. "We want to go as far as we can to eliminate the presence of that flag," France told the AP today. "I personally find it an offensive symbol, so there is no daylight how we feel about it and our sensitivity to others who feel the same way." Earlier this week, NASCAR backed South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's call to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol, and noted that it bars the flag in any official NASCAR capacity. But banning it on race track property is a much larger task for NASCAR, which began as a Southern sport and has many fans who still embrace the flag.
It flies at camp sites at many races; the size of the crowd, and NASCAR's own acknowledgment that fans have a right to freedom of expression, make it difficult to police it. But France insists NASCAR is exploring its options. "We are going to be as aggressive as we can to disassociate ourselves with that flag," he said. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon yesterday backed NASCAR's efforts. Brad Daugherty, the lone black Sprint Cup Series team owner in NASCAR, said that seeing the Confederate flag at races "does make my skin crawl." Says France, "obviously, we have our roots in the South, there are events in the South, it's part of our history like it is for the country," France said. "But it needs to be just that, part of our history. It isn't part of our future."