BY CLYDE HUGHES
I give NASCAR credit for thinking outside the box and trying to expand its base. It is smart marketing to look into the future to see where your growth will come from and look for opportunities to tap into it.
That is why I’m sure NASCAR thought it was a good idea when it turned its Instagram account to Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., the racing circuit’s lone African-American driver, and sent him to the BET Awards Sunday – that’s BET as in Black Entertainment Television.
Surely NASCAR had to anticipate that there would be a few bad apples that frequent their Instagram account that would rain on Wallace’s parade while he’s enjoying John Legend, Pharrell Williams, Lil Wayne and the likes. According to Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News on Wednesday (July 2), Wallace found a deluge of negative, rude and racist comments about him posting anything about BET on the NASCAR forum.
“Don’t care about the BET, shouldn’t have anything to do with Nascar. Why do they keep trying to shove it down our throats? Leave it alone,” said one commenter.
“That’s weird…I thought I was following nascar. Not the BET Instagram page,” another commenter added.
“Wtf does this have to do with NASCAR or racing in general @nascar,” said a commenter.
“So it’s ok for LeBron James to say that basketball is for black people but it’s not ok to say NASCAR is a primarily white sport? Hmm… That seems more racist than any of the comments I’ve seen,” added another.
“Have you ever seen a rapper perform before a race? Is always country. Nascar was formed off of moonshine runners. Not N.W.A.!” said another for good measure.
And those are the ones NASCAR allowed the stay up after zapping many other comments because they crossed the line of decorum.
“If any abusive comments were left up – of any type – it was simply an oversight. Our policy is that ANY foul or abusive language is not allowed and will be deleted – and repeat offenders risk being blocked from commenting at all. Every person deserves our respect and should feel welcome as a part of the NASCAR family. Our community has a responsibility to also report any abusive comments – you can do so by sliding any comment from right to left and clicking the exclamation point,” NASCAR wrote on one of the Instagram posts.
Some fans did stick up for Wallace at the BET Awards and took their Instagram commenters to task.
“Idiotic comments like these is why NASCAR has a bad image on the outside,” one commenter said. “Same thing with the people who complain out Dylan Kwasnieski’s hat. The sport isn’t completely ‘southern’ or ‘redneck’ anymore. Hasn’t been for a while. Deal with it.”
One commenter saluted NASCAR for putting Wallace on, writing: “@nascar I have to give you A LOT of credit for doing something that you knew would cause more vocal fans to react and cause you a lot of work. Just so you can branch out and show that NASCAR is more than beer, country music, and driving in circles.”
Wallace, 20, who looks to have a bright future ahead of him in NASCAR, tried to take the high road with some of his racing fans in a tweet.
“The people who are upset over the Instagram takeover w/ NASCAR n BET…are what’s wrong with the world today #ignorance,” he posted.
The people who are upset over the Instagram takeover w/ NASCAR n BET..are what’s wrong with the world today #ignorance
— Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) June 30, 2014
“The only full-time African-American driver in a NASCAR national series, the two-time Camping World Truck Series winner often is told to shake off racial comments on social media. A fool with a computer doesn’t deserve a response,” wrote Pockrass.
“Born to a Caucasian father (also named Darrell, hence the need for the youngster to have a nickname, ‘Bubba’) and an African-American mother, Wallace said he has been well accepted by NASCAR fans. When his father hugged him in victory lane last month at Gateway, there was no mention on Twitter about the color of their skin,” Pockrass added.
One would think since we’re 50 years removed from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that Wallace posting about the BET Awards on NASCAR’s Instagram page would not cause such a fuss. Some things, though, are hard to change. Wallace’s handling of situation, though, has just earned him a new fan. I’ll be looking for him from now on.
“I don’t take it personal at all,” Wallace told the Sporting News. “I tell myself that it’s 2014 and we’re just the same as everybody. We’re all created equal, right? To be able to be the ambassador for it, to go along with it, that is part of it.”
On that, we can agree.