NASCAR banned the Confederate flag Wednesday, changing their stance from a "long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity." The news comes after a week of many, including NASCAR's Bubba Wallace, speaking out against the presence of the controversial flag at races.
NASCAR's statement says:
"The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties."
The flag has long been a message of hatred and division and Wallace asked the governing body to toughen up on their stance against the flag so all would feel welcome at events. "Get them out of here," he said.
Wallace is the only African-American top tier NASCAR driver.
NASCAR made another major change to its policy, noting that going forward, it will allow team members to peacefully protest during prerace ceremonies, removing a guideline that states they must stand. The guidelines were dropped before the race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
NASCAR previously had a specific rule that was noted in a hand out crew chiefs received at the driver and crew chief meeting.
The now removed rule stated:
"DRIVERS & CREW CHIEFS, please advise all your Team members: Conduct during the playing of the National Anthem, taken from the US Flag Code. When the flag is displayed – all persons should face and stand at attention with their right hand over their heart – persons should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart – when the flag is not displayed – all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed."
Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports first reported the absence of this guideline, saying, "It was not in the handout (which contains pit road speed, minimum speed, etc.) for Atlanta and NASCAR does not plan to include it in the handout for future events."
Before the Atlanta race, NASCAR official Kirk Price kneeled during the anthem while saluting the flag and held his fist up during the invocation in honor of those who have died innocently and for victims of racism and police brutality. Price was active duty U.S. Army for three years.
"If I would have seen it, I would have went there and stood next to him, kneeled next to him because it's such a powerful move," he said. "A man, an incredible man, who has served our country, kneeling down. People think it's disrespecting the flag and going against our military, and it's definitely not.
The conversation of peaceful protests has been brought up again amid protests against racism and brutality occurring in all 50 states and in countries around the world.
Other leagues are changing their stance on kneeling during the anthem including the NFL, who made a statement apologizing for their previous stance on the demonstration.
The U.S. Soccer Federation is considering lifting its ban on peaceful anthem protests as well.