As with just about everything else, it seems that NASCAR just can’t come to a consistent stance on the issue of gay rights and acceptance.
When the new “religious freedom” law in Indiana was announced, people were outraged that a state could pass a law that was so discriminatory against the gay and lesbian community. As the law gained attention, people and companies came out in support of LGBT rights and tolerance, including NASCAR.
NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes said in a statement that NASCAR was disappointed by the decision in Indiana and that the sport would not embrace intolerance or exclusion.
“NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race.”
For NASCAR, it was important to put out a statement in a timely fashion since it will be in Indiana in July for the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard. In theory, it was a great statement by NASCAR and one that could be taken as a big step.
Only one problem – the statement isn’t completely accurate.
As long as you have money to spend with NASCAR, the sport will look past your beliefs and even the things you say publicly on just about any subject, including this one. Don’t believe me? Look at the very next race on the NASCAR schedule after that statement was made – that’s right, it is the The Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 12.
Not familiar with Duck Commander? Well, it is the company that was started by Phil Robertson and has morphed into the hit television show “Duck Dynasty.” Members of the Robertson family (and popular characters on the show) are scheduled to take part in some of the pre-race festivities at the track. That includes Phil Robertson waving the green flag to begin The Duck Commander 500.
Why is this problematic for NASCAR? Well, let’s just say that Robertson hasn’t exactly been a pillar of acceptance. In fact, he has been quite the opposite.
In an interview in the January 2014 issue of GQ Magazine, Robertson spoke his mind on all subjects, including his opinion on gay marriage. The statement originally got Robertson suspended by A&E, the network who airs “Duck Dynasty.”
“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical. Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine. Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
That raises a huge issue – a red flag, if you will – for NASCAR. How can the sport preach acceptance one minute and then allow Robertson – who has been very outspoken on the opposite side of the aisle on the issue – to stand on the flag stand and begin the race?
The answer seems pretty simple – it can’t. At the end of the day, NASCAR needs to step in and decide that it is in its best interest to not have Robertson waving the green flag and representing the sport. Of course, the part making that more difficult is that Robertson and his company are lining the pockets of NASCAR and Texas Motor Speedway by sponsoring the race. The three-year deal between Duck Commander and Texas Motor Speedway is estimated at around $5 million – and that just includes the naming rights. Imagine the other money being brought in with ticket and merchandise sales.
If NASCAR wants to save any shred of respect and credibility it has remaining, there needs to be a serious decision on this – does NASCAR stand on the side of acceptance or on the side of money? That’s an interesting conundrum, especially considering the parties involved here. Robertson – a preacher and devout Christian – could easily point to a verse in the Bible that would give NASCAR the answer they need but would also work against him.
“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil…” 1 Timothy 6:10
For the sake of the sport, let’s hope NASCAR values their integrity over the almighty dollar. But if I had to bet my money on it, I would wager that NASCAR sticks with Phil Robertson. After all, the flag he will be waving isn’t the only green between the patriarch of Duck Commander and NASCAR.