Daytona International Speedway will not ban the Confederate flag from its property during this weekend’s NASCAR events. Track President Joie Chitwood told local press Tuesday that the Speedway will not ban the controversial flag, but instead will offer fans an opportunity to exchange a Confederate flag for an American one. Chitwood said the goal is to be open and inclusive.
“We want to celebrate the American flag this weekend,” Chitwood told the Orlando Sentinel. “That’s the flag that we should be celebrating. We’re going to have flags available so if fans want to exchange whatever flags they have for an American flag, we want to make sure they wave our nation’s flag. It’s our nation’s birthday. We’re going to have military there. That’s going to be our goal.”
Last week a day after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol NASCAR restated its policy against displaying the flag and showed its support for the Governor’s position. The statements came less than a week after a 21-year-old white man gunned down nine people at a historic African American church in Charleston. In the statement NASCAR said:
“As we continue to mourn the tragic loss of life last week in Charleston, we join our nation’s embrace of those impacted. NASCAR supports the position that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley took on the Confederate Flag on Monday. As our industry works collectively to ensure that all fans are welcome at our races, NASCAR will continue our long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate Flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity. While NASCAR recognizes that freedom of expression is an inherent right of all citizens, we will continue to strive for an inclusive environment at our events.”
The sanctioning body also restated its longstanding policy that “prohibits displays of the Confederate flag on its cars, uniforms, licensed merchandise or in advertisements. There’s no official ban on spectators bringing flags to the track, or wearing T-shirts decorated with the symbol.
This past weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver and NASCAR Chairman Brian France both spoke out against the Confederate flag. France told the Associated Press Saturday that NASCAR is exploring how far it can go in trying to eliminate the flag from its races. Fans camp in the infield and areas that surround race tracks and many display the Confederate flag as part of their tailgate activities. France told the AP: “We want to go as far as we can to eliminate the presence of that flag.”
NASCAR will race on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway with the Xfinity Series. Sunday the top touring NASCAR Sprint Cup series will compete in the Coke Zero 400.