It's not uncommon for confederate flags to be spotted at NASCAR races. But if it was up to Bubba Wallace, the flags would be completely banned from events. The No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports driver, who is the only African American driver at the top level in NASCAR, has been vocal about the movement in the country against racism and police brutality. He opened up to CNN about it all this week.
"My next step would be to get rid of all confederate flags," Wallace said on Monday. "There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family that feels some type of way about something they have seen, an object they have seen flying.
"No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them. The narrative on that before is I wasn't bothered by it, but I don't speak for everybody else. I speak for myself. What I am chasing is checkered flags, and that was kind of my narrative."
Some of the sport's top competitors joined Wallace in speaking out and took to social media to express their commitment to take active steps to create a more accepting world.
Time for real change. pic.twitter.com/sGdEEXbjkY— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 9, 2020
NASCAR currently does have a "long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity," but they have yet to go so far as to ban it outright.
On Tuesday, NASCAR made a statement on the matter saying, "The sport's position on those inequalities and social and racial injustices has not changed. Our commitment to that issue remains firm and unwavering we want all to feel welcome at our events in the future."
"Diving more into it and educating myself, people feel uncomfortable with that. People talk about that. That's the first thing they bring up," he said. "So there's going to be a lot of angry people that carry those flags proudly, but it's time for change."
Not everyone is saying the flag should be banned, though. Brad Keselowski doesn't think the decision is their "call."
"I'm not gonna tell people they need to get rid of it," Keselowski said. "That's not my right either. But I certainly don't salute it or respect it or probably anyone else who feels the same way. But, at the end of the day, it's not our call."
Before Sunday's Cup Series race in Atlanta, NASCAR released a statement regarding racism, and drivers had a moment of silence in the wake of George Floyd's death.
Wallace wore a shirt that said, "I Can't Breathe" and "Black Lives Matter," and later commented on how emotional he felt regarding the protests and the pre-race events honoring victims of racism and police brutality.
"I sat there on the start-finish line with tears in my eyes seeing every crew member stand on the wall ... And we had our official, Kirk Price, kneel during the anthem," Wallace said. "A member of our community that kneeled during the anthem. An African American man that kneeled during the anthem that also served our country. That speaks volumes."
Wallace said he would have joined Kirk kneeling if he had seen him and noted just how powerful of an image Kirk kneeling was.
"An incredible man that has served our country kneeling down, and people think it's disrespecting the flag and going against our military. It's definitely not," he said.
The protests around the country have again brought up conversations about kneeling during the national anthem, with many changing their minds on the situation.
"I was so uneducated on what the kneeling meant when it started. But now, reading about it and what it stands for and what it goes after — I'm still doing a lot of learning myself, don't get me wrong," Wallace said. "I don't know everything about what's going on in the world. But that's what we are trying to deliver the message across: Listen and learn to be able to better educate ourselves."
On Wednesday, Wallace will run a Black Lives Matter paint scheme and hopes to bring awareness to the movement and show people that they are hoping to unify, not divide, the country.
Wallace says it is "probably one of the best race cars we've been able to do" and his team is proud to spread a message of compassion, love and understanding.