Bubba Wallace on Confederate flags: "Get them out of here"
Bubba Wallace believes it's time for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag from its infield.
Wallace joined Don Lemon on CNN Monday night to discuss NASCAR's stand against racism and the moment of silence Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Lemon said he was "amazed" by the response from NASCAR and its drivers. The CNN anchor asked Wallace what the next course of action from the sport should be, to which he replied: “That's a good question. That's why these conversations are being had right now."
He continued: "We are trying to figure out next steps, and my next step would be to get rid of all Confederate flags. There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family that feels some type of way about something they have seen, an object they have seen flying.
“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.
“The narrative on that before, I wasn’t bothered by it, but I don’t speak for everybody else, I speak for myself. What I am chasing is checkered flags. That was kind of my narrative, but diving more into it and educating myself, people feel uncomfortable about that, people talk about that. That’s the first thing they bring up. There’s going to be a lot of angry people that carry those flags proudly, but it’s time for change. We have to change that. I encourage NASCAR, and we will have those conversations.”
Wallace does not stand alone
Five years ago, Daytona International Speedway offered a flag exchange for fans who turned in their Confederate flags, handing out American flags instead.
The flag's history is intertwined with NASCAR's, but it's no longer welcomed in any official capacity. It is banned from paint schemes, race programs, signage and so on. However, fans have been allowed to continue to fly the flag and it is seen often in the infield at NASCAR events.
Wallace is not alone. Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski are no fans of the Confederate flag either and said as much following's Sunday race.
“I only salute one flag and that’s America’s," said Keselowski, who displays an American flag in his post-race celebrations whenever he wins. "I recognize that that flag might mean something different to different people, but it doesn’t mean United States of America to me. But I’m not gonna tell people they need to get rid of it. That’s not my right either, but I certainly don’t salute it or respect it, or probably anyone else who feels the same way, but, at the end of the day it’s not our call.”
His Team Penske teammate Blaney echoed those comments, saying: “It's tough, I don’t really enjoy it because sometimes I feel like the people that wave them mean the negative when they wave them and that’s not cool. “Yeah, I’d love to not see them at the race track, honestly, because it doesn’t make everyone comfortable, so that’s kind of where I stand on that. Bring your 50 stars flag. I think that would be way better.”
In 2015, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said the flag is "offensive to an entire race" following the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting where nine African-Americans were killed by a white supremacist.
Darrell Wallace Jr., Richard Petty Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro
Photo by: NASCAR Media
Wallace was also asked about Kirk Price, the NASCAR official who dropped to one knee during pre-race ceremonies. Price is a U.S. Army veteran.
No NASCAR driver has knelt during the national anthem in protest of police brutality against people of color, but the symbolic action gained national attention when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick did so in 2016. Several athletes joined him in solidarity, but the form of peaceful protest was highly controversial in the eyes of some. Wallace told Lemon that if he had seen Price kneeling, he would have joined him.
“If I would have seen it, I would have went there and stood next to him, kneeled next to him because it’s such a powerful move," said Wallace. "A man, an incredible man who has served our country kneeling down. People think it’s disrespecting the flag and going against our military. It’s definitely not. I was so uneducated on what the kneeling meant when it started but now reading about it and what it stands for ... I’m still doing a lot of learning myself, don’t get me wrong, I don’t know everything about what’s going on in the world but that’s what we are trying to deliver the message about. Listen and learn to be able to better educate ourselves.”
Pre-race tribute to social unrest
Photo by: NASCAR Media
Truex comes up short at Atlanta but is "knocking on the door"
NASCAR to allow “guests” to attend Miami, Talladega Cup races