Even though the Confederate battle flag was banned within Talledega Speedway on Sunday, outside the track, the initials “PC” stood for “publicly Confederate.”
Earlier this month, NASCAR said the Confederate flag no longer will be allowed at its events.
“The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” NASCAR said in a statement posted on its website.
“Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties,” it said.
At the time, NASCAR was racing without fans. On Sunday, Talledega was scheduled to be opened for a limited number of fans for the Geico 500, but rain postponed the event. Cars were set to take to the track Monday afternoon.
Although none of the fans seemed willing to test NASCAR’s rules within the speedway, many let their feelings be known outside.
“The idea is to do it when people are trying to get in the gate,” said Johnny Wilson, 47, who drove a pickup sporting two Confederate flags.
A caravan of Confederate flags right outside the entrance to Talladega (sent by a friend) pic.twitter.com/UA23yJaHd7
— Peter Hamby (@PeterHamby) June 21, 2020
He said NASCAR was thinking of its image, not its fans.
“With everything going on in the world, they’re just trying to get attention for themselves,” he said.
A Confederate flag parade was held Sunday outside Talladega. https://t.co/ktJqrB7F4S
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) June 22, 2020
There was a limit to his protest, though.
“I’m going to respect what NASCAR says because I’m a race fan,” Wilson said after putting his flags away to enter the track.
One opinion was visible from inside the stadium: A plane towed a banner of a Confederate flag and the message “Defund NASCAR.”
Vehicles lining the boulevard outside of Talladega Superspeedway waved the Confederate flag after NASCAR banned the flag from being displayed at its events.
— ESPN (@espn) June 21, 2020
Some decried NASCAR’s changes.
“They’re running off all the rednecks,” said Becky McDonald, 70, who owns the Mr. Hot Dog stand near the track and has operated it for 30 years.
“It ain’t like it used to be — all the wild children grew up,” she told The Times. “They made the statement, ‘We don’t need the rednecks anymore.’ Well, do you remember who got you here?”
Robert Castello, 68, who owns the nearby Dixie General Store, was doing a brisk business in Confederate flag items.
“People are pushing back,” he said.
“NASCAR’s decline started long before this,” Castello said. “It started when they tried to expand up north and turn it into an international sport. It’s not. It’s Southern.”
“People are disappointed that NASCAR has taken that stance,” he said. “It’s been around for as long as all of us have been.
“I don’t think anybody really connects it to any kind of racism or anything. It’s just a Southern thing. It’s transparent. It’s just a heritage thing.”
CORRECTION, June 24, 2020: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the Confederate battle flag as the “Stars and Bars,” which is the nickname for the first official national flag of the Confederacy.
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