Among the hundreds of such messages from American companies on Wednesday, NASCAR celebrated the beginning of “Pride Month,” saying, “As we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, we acknowledge that recent actions have not aligned with NASCAR’s mission to be a welcoming sport for all.”
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to create a more inclusive environment — in our workplaces, at the racetrack [and] in the stands.”
The statement came with no specific examples of wrongdoing.
Associated Press Reporter Jenna Fryer responded to NASCAR’s comment, “I’m not sure what this tweet is acknowledging… [but] someone with the power to acknowledge such things admitted to me Abbott at Texas was a mistake. But below isn’t exactly clear which actions are out of alignment.”
Governor Greg Abbott was allowed to wave the starting flag at the organization’s all-star race held at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway in May.
Earlier this year, after half a year of calls from other Republican officials, Abbott directed the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate the use of puberty blockers for children as abuse. Last August, he issued a similar direction to DFPS to determine whether gender modification surgeries constitute child abuse, which the agency obliged.
Both actions, along with the statewide requirement that public school athletes compete only with other members of their biological sex, have drawn the ire of LGBT activists.
If NASCAR’s statement is aimed at Abbott, they’ll be crossing an official who oversees large amounts of state money of which it has been a beneficiary. The State of Texas doles out millions of dollars to localities who put on large events to supplement the costs shouldered by the entities holding them.
This program is split into three tranches — the Events Trust Fund, Major Events Reimbursement Program, and Motor Sports Racing Trust Fund — and both the state and local governments pay into it. The fund is handled by the Office of the Governor.
Since 2016, NASCAR events have received over $7.5 million in state money for five events through the Event Trust Funds Program — used to pay a portion of the cost of large events in the state. NASCAR-related events also received $21 million in state dollars from the Major Events Reimbursement Program during the same time frame.
After an article from Yahoo News linked NASCAR’s comment to Abbott’s appearance at its event, state Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) inquired about the racing organization’s intentions.
“A news article was just brought to my attention,” Shaheen wrote to NASCAR CEO Brian France, pointing to the company’s comment.
“As NASCAR is a recipient of the State of Texas Event Trust Funds Program, can you please define what you mean by ‘recent actions?’”
Any legislative changes that may or may not come to the fund would not affect NASCAR’s pocketbook directly, but the loss of funding may affect whether an individual locality chooses to bid for an event.
The racing league has increased its political messaging over the last few years, trying to appeal to new audiences. Among these include an alleged hate crime — when Bubba Wallace, a black NASCAR driver reported a noose in his garage less than a month after the protests and riots over George Floyd’s death. This caused an industry-wide stir and a response from NASCAR.
But it turned out that the alleged noose was just a garage door pull rope and had been there since October 2019.
Other sports leagues have similarly engaged more and more in political speech.
A NASCAR official could not be reached for comment. An Abbott spokesman did not return a request for comment.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.