DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Bubba Wallace said there was not much of a dialogue among NASCAR drivers regarding sitting out the Cup Series regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway.
While other sports postponed games and practices this week in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, NASCAR pressed on at its historic track.
“We still have a lot of work to do as a nation to make things better for us, our next generation coming up through,” Wallace told NBC Sports before Saturday night's race. “What I simply said about not competing (was) us not following suit does not mean that we’re standing down. We still know what’s on our table or what’s on our plate to go out and accomplish and attempt to accomplish to make this a better place
“With tonight’s race being held, we still know that we have a lot on our minds thinking about everybody, the African-American community specifically, to help out.”
Wallace, the only Black driver at NASCAR's top level, commended other sports for taking action. But he said there needs to be a unified approach to fighting racial injustice.
“I respect my brothers and sisters that want to use their platform in that certain way,” he said. “I’m all for it. I think we all have to come together as one and figure out some solution because nothing’s helping — not playing games, playing games, racing, not racing, being silent. We’re still seeing the tragic events happen.
"Jacob Blake, fortunately he survived through that madness there. But it’s something we still shouldn’t have to go through and witness, and he never should have been a part of. “
NASCAR President Steve Phelps made it clear that the sanctioning body took a strong stance in June, when it banned the Confederate flag at events. Drivers also made a video addressing racial inequality and backed Wallace at every turn, most notably after a pull rope fashioned into a noose was found in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. The noose was eventually determined not to be a hate crime, but it prompted solidarity and support few have seen in nearly seven decades of NASCAR.
“It was a moment in time in this country that it appeared like everyone really was interested in understanding what was happening, an opportunity for us to listen,” Phelps told NBC Sports. “That’s where we were as a sport. Bubba, I think we would all suggest that he’s shown nothing but class and courage through this whole thing. … It’s all about love, understanding, welcoming people to this sport. And that’s really what we’re about.”
Phelps added that NASCAR since June has “done a lot of listening” with employees, partners and sponsors about the role that sports can play moving forward.
“What actions can we take?” he said. “It’s great to say the words, but if you don’t follow them up with actions, they’re really meaningless. For us, it’s continuing down this journey towards getting better. And getting better really means bringing in more, welcoming an inclusive environment, whether at the racetrack or watching on television, that our sport is a place where everyone is welcome.”
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