Photo: Lindy Potocnak
By: Kobe Lambeth
Social media is a way to connect with people through the internet. You can include your friends, meet new people, and post pictures or videos. However, it can be used as a weapon to bash a specific cause, individual, or organization. Recently, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding some NFL players who decide to kneel or sit during the playing of the National Anthem. What happened to the days when we could enjoy a football game or NASCAR race without interfering with the complicated world of politics?
Sports used to be a way to escape from the real world and any issues that make living each day a struggle. Now, politics and sports being used in the same context are inevitable. NASCAR team owners, Richard Petty and Richard Childress responded to NFL player protests of the National Anthem that was first set into motion by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season.
“Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country,” Petty told the AP. “Period.
“What got’em where they’re at? The United States.”
According to the AP, Richard Childress shared a similar stance on people who decide to sit or kneel during the National Anthem,
“Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in,” said Childress. “So many people gave their lives for it.
“This is America.”
Once the comments from Petty and Childress were released to the public, many started to make ridiculous accusations about NASCAR. Many do not take the time to understand auto racing, and it makes my blood boil when people do not have any knowledge about the sport, but they stereotype instead of getting the facts straight.
Based on my personal experience, I can assure you that NASCAR has many wonderful people in the sport. In 2015, I was invited by Jeff Potocnak to attend a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway with members of his family. I am forever grateful for the kindness the Potocnak family displayed by taking me to my first NASCAR race. Without knowing much about me, they embraced me with open arms and made me feel like I belonged.
On Dec. 3, 2016, Jeff took me on a tour of the area heavily populated with the sport I love, alongside completing my senior graduation project. I did an interview with NASCAR official, Mark Wendell on the importance of marketing in NASCAR. Wendell and his family were very friendly and welcoming to the stranger who entered their home.
Through my website Daily NASCAR Scoop and More, I have met many fans and interviewed those involved in auto racing who were very respectful towards me. Of course, there are people in the world who do not treat others well, but I am grateful to be in the presence of wonderful individuals who breathe NASCAR and made me feel welcome to be a part of a meaningful sport.
Notable sports personalities Jemele Hill and Shannon Sharpe took shots at NASCAR in response to the National Anthem protests. Hill mentioned the Confederate flag that is still visible at the race track today, while Sharpe wondered why NASCAR does not have their own version of Colin Kaepernick to promote social change. It hurts my feelings to see the sport I love the most get stereotyped by the public. Speak with knowledge not with ignorance.
My challenge to those who are not familiar with the “real NASCAR” should take time to do some research. NASCAR created a Drive for Diversity program in 2004 as an effort to promote more diversity on every level in the sport. It is possible for anyone to be a part of NASCAR if they want to make it their career. Although some drivers may go through financial struggles to make a career in stock car racing, you should never give up on your dreams. There are many opportunities for a dream to become a reality. Coming from an African-American who wishes to be a part of the motorsports world in some capacity, I can assure you that the sport is filled with people who will support you every step of the way. Of course, NASCAR is not perfect as nothing in life can live up to those standards, but I have faith that my favorite sport will prove to the naysayers that anyone will be accepted with open arms.
Instead of letting words divide us, we should come together as one nation to support and understand what a person is going through. We may not share similar opinions, but we are all human beings at the end of the day. This message is bigger than football, NASCAR, or politics. Unity and togetherness is the answer to solving this conflict. As one nation, the United States is a force to be reckoned with if we learn how to love each other, stop bickering, and accept the reality that everyone is different.