After picking up his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Talladega this past fall, Brandon Brown found himself in an awkward predicament following the birth of the "Let's Go Brandon" chant. It roped the independent driver from Virginia into the political sphere, a development that he had recently lamented as hurting his career.
Now, the saga continues off the track, as a prospective sponsor for Brandon seeking to cash in on the viral chant has been rejected by NASCAR.
According to a report by Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, NASCAR has made a final decision that LGBcoin.io, which had been announced last week as a full season sponsor for Brown and his Brandonbilt Motorsports team, is not an approved sponsor for the team's No. 68 Chevrolet. NASCAR's rejection of the sponsorship is based in the Xfinity Series rulebook, which states that the sanctioning body may withhold sponsorship and paint scheme approval "for any reason" while also mentioning that sponsorships may be disallowed if they were determined to be "detrimental to the sport, to NASCAR ... for any reason, including without limitation, the public image of the sport."
According to Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal, the rejection of the LGBcoin sponsorship comes as NASCAR is expected to place a ban on political sponsors in the coming weeks. Such a ban had reportedly been considered since at least 2020, when Cup Series drivers Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie both faced personal attacks for paint schemes featuring Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump's presidential campaign, respectively.
In the days since Brandonbilt Motorsports' announcement, confusion reigned over whether or not the team had proper approvals from NASCAR and exactly who approved the sponsorship. According to Jeff Gluck of The Athletic, NASCAR told the team in November that it would not approve any sponsorship referencing the "Let's Go Brandon" chant. But the team submitted their request for approval of LGBcoin anyway while classifying the sponsorship as cryptocurrency rather than political -- which NASCAR initially missed.
James Koutoulas, the founder of Typhoon Capital Management and a major LGBcoin holder, claimed that the team and sponsor had received formal written approval from NASCAR and threatened to sue the sanctioning body over the rejection. Max Marcucci, a spokesman for Brandonbilt Motorsports, expressed dissatisfaction with NASCAR's going back on their approval, claiming that the sanctioning body did not speak with the team prior to their decision and did not acknowledge multiple attempts by the team to set up a discussion.
"The bottom line is that Brandonbilt Motorsports followed the standard process for sponsor and paint scheme approval and received approval from a NASCAR official empowered to make those decisions, and who makes those decisions on a regular basis," read a statement by Marcucci. "The official then confirmed and reiterated that we had received approval in a phone conversation after the announcement was made.
"We are disappointed that NASCAR leadership has chosen to rescind approval of this sponsorship and feel they should have the confidence to own their decision to backtrack and not gaslight a team or a driver."
After earning his first career victory at the Xfinity fall race at Talladega, Brown went from an underdog driver and surprise winner to making news headlines when a vulgar anti-Joe Biden chant in his winner's interview was confused by an NBC reporter for chants of "Let's Go Brandon". The development proved problematic for Brown as he found his marketability to sponsors hurt through association with the chant.
Brown stated in a Newsweek op-ed that he declined numerous media requests in the months that followed, confessing that he was "afraid of being canceled by my sponsors, or by the media, for being caught up in something that has little to do with me."
"The unfortunate part is it's my name and my career that are at stake and the risk is high. If I do something wrong in this arena, my name as a driver falls off very fast," Brown told Sports Business Journal. "Even a career in NASCAR if I didn't make it as a driver, trying to get another job in the community, I'm always going to be the 'Let's Go Brandon' guy. I'm always going to be known for that and how I handled this situation."
The sponsorship rejection puts Brown and his race team in a difficult position. According to Sports Business Journal, the deal with LGBcoin was the only serious offer that Brandonbilt Motorsports received in recent weeks. Brown's team ran with limited sponsorship in 2021 from companies such as Larry's Hard Lemonade and Trade the Chain. But in spite of the rejection, Brown will not end up empty-handed: On Saturday, LGBcoin announced that its sponsorship of Brown would become a personal services agreement.
The upcoming 2022 campaign will mark Brown's fourth full-time season driving for his family team. After making the Xfinity Series playoffs in 2020, Brown posted career-highs in top fives (three) and top 10s (nine) along with his first win in 2021.