Thursday, 08 December 2022

Brian France's Trump endorsement is an insult to NASCAR fans

Posted On Friday, 04 March 2016 19:00 Written by
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When I saw the name of NASCAR's CEO Brian France trending on Twitter, I knew something wasn't right -- he's not famous enough to trend unless he did something completely off the reservation.

And when I clicked on it, I was right -- he (along with racers Bill Elliott, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott and David Ragan) had publicly endorsed Donald Trump, giving the world the impression that the sport and its fans are supporters of a guy who has support from white supremacist groups and has openly denounced most minority groups in one way or another. ... Not exactly a good PR move for the sport you're supposed to be attempting to grow the audience. Despite NASCAR's assertion that this is a "private personal decision by Brian," it appears quite the opposite to everyone in the world who read about it.

 

 

I've seen some doozies over the years, but this is a development so ridiculous that it ranks clearly at No. 1 on any list of bad decisions made by NASCAR leaders.

To be clear, this column is not simply being written because the candidate France chose to endorse is Donald Trump (though that certainly raises the attention it will receive), this column is an overall statement on how absurd the very concept of a sports CEO endorsing ANY presidential candidate is, as a terrible impact of that decision could come down on the sport if fans and sponsors start to flee due to this incident.
NASCAR is a sponsor-driven sport. While there are no shortage of controversies within the sport and drivers should and often do speak up about them, the concept of the leader of the entire organization (which employs thousands of people and serves millions of fans, all of various political views) endorsing one political party and one specific candidate is just bad business.
It gives the impression, as many erroneous headlines said this week, that "NASCAR endorses Trump"; Pardon my French, but that's a load of B.S. ...

And as a member of the media, I can assure you that most reports will assume that anything that comes out of France's mouth represents NASCAR, whether he says it does or not.

The antics of all the presidential nominees in the past few weeks are so circus-level embarrassing that I cringe at the thought of any of them being endorsed by anyone, period. And it's especially problematic when the leader of a sports organization does it. Can you imagine the furor if Roger Goodell of the NFL endorsed any candidate -- that would be suicidal for the NFL to get involved in politics.

The bigger question here is: What is the upside to NASCAR's leader endorsing a presidential candidate. It's already caused waves, with the CEO of Camping World (which sponsors the Truck series) expressing his dismay. I'm not saying this endorsement will cause the Truck series to fold, but if it did I'm pretty sure Brian France would be the one to blame.

Any endorsement will alienate a large chunk of NASCAR fans by picking a presidential candidate. If Brian France had endorsed Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, or Ted Cruz or anyone else running, I would have the same reaction -- it's completely unnecessary and can only do harm to the sport -- A sport that I love and also employs a lot of good people.

That's, in a nutshell, why it bothers me so much. It would be horrible if the pride and perhaps political ambition of one man would lead to damage being done to a sport that so many folks love and depend on.

France took heat for this decision all week, and sent an email to NASCAR employees defending his decision: In the email, France said NASCAR would stay “a model of a progressive organization,” but he made the decision because he and Trump are longtime friends.

"I truly believe that being involved is an important role for every citizen. Looking ahead at the presidential election in November, I made the personal decision on Monday to announce my support of Donald Trump. I have known Donald and his family for many years, and it is through this connection that I offered my support. Needless to say, with any candidate that one may endorse, there are many positions or policies that run counter to your beliefs, as is the case here with me. This is my personal and not a corporate position. However, I still encourage each of you to make your own personal evaluations as our country moves forward in the electoral process.
That said, let me make something perfectly clear: NASCAR will continue to operate our business unchanged. This includes our deep, long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. It’s a commitment that I made to this organization more than a decade ago. We will not waiver from our goal to make our sport more open and friendly to everyone, and we will remain steadfast in our support of key initiatives to grow our fan base and remain a model of a progressive organization.”

To sum that email up in in a nutshell, he's basically saying: I like to dabble in politics, this guy's my buddy, and I endorsed him even though he is against everything NASCAR stands for -- but don't worry, everything is fine.

Again, B.S.

I'm actually more annoyed with the drivers involved in this. Chase Elliott is young and probably just trying to help his dad, so I'll give him a bit of a pass. But Ryan Newman, David Ragan and Bill Elliott are grown men who should know the effect this controversial endorsement by NASCAR's stars could have on the sport. I'm stunned that they were able to convince themselves it was a good idea to show up at this event and endorse Trump.
In the end, I hope this will be forgotten mostly and things will continue in a positive trend for the sport. I know from attending and covering races that the folks who come to watch are from all walks of life, all colors, all faiths, and most of them are definitely not Donald Trump supporters.

The fact that Brian France went in public and gave the indication that was the case is pretty sickening to me, and the outcry from this endorsement should be a lesson to him to think about how he is representing the sport and its fans before doing anything like in the future.

If France continues down this path of mixing his politics with the sport, fans will flee the sport, and that's not what anyone wants.

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Matt Myftiu can be reached on Twitter @MattMyftiu; Or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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