Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
Nearly one month after a Confederate flag banner was flown over Talladega Speedway in June, a flag was spotted flying over Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday ahead of NASCAR’s All-Star Race.
Confederate flags and imagery have been banned at all races and NASCAR venues since June 10 with the organization saying it runs “contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.”
According to USA Today‘s Mike Hembree, Wednesday’s banner included an ad for the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization, which previously claimed responsibility for the Talladega banner.
“NASCAR’s banning the display of the Confederate battle flag by its fans is nothing less than trampling upon Southerners’ First Amendment Right of free expression,” SCV Commander-in-Chief Paul C. Gramling Jr. said following Talladega, per James Bennett of the Columbia Daily Herald. “This un-American act shall not go unchallenged. Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Confederate Air Force displayed its disapproval of NASCAR’s trampling upon the First Amendment Rights of Southerners.”
As a private company, however, NASCAR’s decision to ban Confederate imagery does not violate free-speech protections.
No Confederate flags were reported in the grandstands during the All-Star Race, and the infield was closed to spectators.
The All-Star Open, held shortly before the All-Star Race, featured driver Bubba Wallace, who is currently the only Black driver in the Cup Series. Wallace did not qualify for the All-Star Race following a crash with Michael McDowell.
Confederate imagery had long been accepted at NASCAR events, yet the sport took action after Wallace called for the banning of the flag. Previously NASCAR had asked fans not to bring the flag to events or venues.
Wallace has driven in a car with a #BlackLivesMatter paint job and has received support from the sport and his fellow drivers for taking a stand against racism in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in late May.