Like Father, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Understands Confederate Flag’s Toxicity
After the tragic hate crime committed last week at a Charleston church, NASCAR announced its support of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds, stating that, “NASCAR will continue [its] long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate Flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity.”
In response, some of the sport’s most popular drivers were asked their opinions about the flag, and their replies ranged from diplomatic to rather opinionated.
“It’s a delicate balance,” said retiring Chevy driver Jeff Gordon. “We race all over but the South is an area where we have a lot of fans and everyone has different opinions and expression of that, so I support NASCAR and the stance they’re taking.”
The strongest words, though, came from Gordon’s fellow Hendricks Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I think it’s offensive to an entire race,” said Junior. “It belongs in the history books and that’s about it.”
Earnhardt’s thoughts on the matter aren’t exactly a revelation—in his 2001 memoir, he recalled feeling uncomfortable when a fan asked him to give his opinion on the flag at a Q&A session in Richmond, Virginia.
“As much as I brag about being a no-[B.S.]-tell-it-like-it-is-here’s-how-I-see-it kinda guy,” wrote Earnhardt, “I know that these are the fans that pay my salary, so I’m hesitant to tell him the rebel flag represents closed-minded, racist views that have no place in today’s society.”
In the end, Earnhardt says he simply told the crowd, “I think it means something different to me than it does to y’all,” rather than try and debate the topic.
Still, Earnhardt’s recent comments have sparked some outrage from NASCAR fans, with many suggesting that his late father would never have forsaken the stars and bars.
However, that’s where they’re wrong.
According to Yahoo Sports!, Earnhardt Sr. once bought one of those “American By Birth, Southern By the Grace of God” bumper stickers and slapped it on to the back of his pickup truck. But the sticker happened to include an image of the Confederate Flag, which his African-American housekeeper told him made her uncomfortable.
Rather than defend the flag, Earnhardt sliced it off of the sticker and threw it away, leaving only the slogan.
“He didn’t want to offend anybody or make anybody mad in that manner,” said daughter Kelley Earnhardt Miller. “He had a good heart.”
His son, fortunately, seems to have inherited his father’s good heart, in addition to his racing abilities.