Racism, Sexism and Speed: Can NASCAR Be Saved From Itself?

Dave Zirin, The Nation, July 12, 2008

For the last decade, NASCAR has tried to shed its legacy as a sport indelibly linked to the confederate flag. Motorsports execs understand that if their sport is ever to go global, burning rubber can’t be associated with burning crosses. However, despite NASCAR’s efforts to improve their image, it’s still a sport where racism thrives below the surface and sexism in the form of bikini-clad NASCAR eye candy is proudly paraded around the speedway, as much a part of the scenery as the stars and bars. NASCAR is in danger of being marginalized by this contradiction. They’re attempting to reach an international audience while displaying the worst kind of backward provincialism.

{snip} In 2005, [Mauricia] Grant became the first black, female inspection official in the sport’s history. Two years later she was fired. Now Grant has filed a $225 million harassment lawsuit against NASCAR alleging “racial and sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.”

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The lawsuit details twenty-three specific incidents of sexual harassment and thirty-four specific incidents of alleged racial and gender discrimination over a two-year span. It is a fairly mindnumbing recitation of similar stories that go well beyond anyone’s notion of political correctness.

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Mike Wilford, who is named in the suit and has since left NASCAR, told The Associated Press that Grant was in on the offensive “jokes” the whole time. “Graphic and lewd jokes? She participated in them. She laughed, she would never say it was inappropriate,” Wilford claims. “She asked to be called the only two names she was ever called. She called herself Mo Money all the time.”

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Grant has said, “We have to work together to change the racist culture. Anyone that has an interest in motorsports, they should be allowed to work in that environment without having to deal with racism or sexism.”

Grant’s love of motorsports is so intense, so pure, that she can separate the beauty of the sport from the ugly underbelly desperately clinging to its wheels. Perhaps she could even inspire NASCAR fans to get up and demonstrate—whether it be at Daytona or Talladega—to show that intolerance and gender inequality are not the cornerstones of the sport they love.

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