IMS statement regarding new anti-gay legislation did not go far enough

Queers4Gears Founder and Editor Michael Myers gives his take on how Indianapolis Motor Speedway has reacted to the recently implemented controversial Indiana Religious Freedom Law.

This opinion piece has been republished from Queers4Gears.com – a website for Gay and Lesbian race fans and written by Michael T. Myers; Founder and Editor of Queers4Gears.

IMS statement

Earlier today, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles issued a statement about Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Law – a.k.a “Turn away the gays.”

Boles said, “For 105 years the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has engaged millions who want to celebrate the true spirit of American racing.  IMS will continue to warmly welcome all who share our enthusiasm for motorsports – employees, participants and fans.”  adding, “I can also confirm that this is the position of all Hulman & Company organizations, including INDYCAR. We welcome everyone.”

This statement did not go far enough.

Boles’ statement didn’t even mention the RFRA legislation – it was boilerplate “we welcome everyone” PR.

NASCAR responds

By comparison, in a statement issued by NASCAR, the sanctioning body said it was “disappointed” by the legislation and that they would not “not embrace or participate in exclusion or intolerance.”  

“NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race.”

In an interview with ESPN, NCAA President Mark Emmert said that the NCAA wants to hold its championship in an “inclusive” environment and “right now we’re not sure that we have that” in Indiana. “We’re very serious about our core values and we want to make sure we can operate in an environment that is supportive of those values, so this is a very serious issue for us.”

IMS has the power to make a stand

If they truly disagree with this law, the Speedway and its board of directors have an opportunity to let their voices be heard. The Indy 500 leads the US in economic impact, contributing $727 million dollars to Indiana’s economy.

In addition to that economic impact, the speedway and the board have a direct line to the Governor’s Mansion.

IMS political influence

Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its Board of Directors contributed over $67,000 directly to Governor Mike Pence. IMS ($5,000), Andre B. Lacy ($24,700), Michael L. Smith ($17,400), John F. Ackerman ($11,000), James T. Morris ($5,000), Anton “Tony” George ($2,000), Nancy L. George ($2,000) [source: followthemoney.org]   

When checks like this are written to politicians – they typically return your call.  IMS and the board have a unique opportunity here – more so than some band canceling its show or an outraged fan venting on social media.

The track may welcome them, but...

While IMS will welcome gay race fans – what about local hotels or restaurants? This law would allow those fans to be turned away.

If IMS truly wants to “warmly welcome all who share our enthusiasm for motorsports” then they should take the lead in having this archaic law repealed.

IMS missed an opportunity to take the lead in demanding equality for every American…… race fan or not, gay or not….. equality for all.

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Series General , IndyCar , NASCAR Cup
Article type Commentary