After his endorsement of controversial presidential candidate Donald Trump, NASCAR CEO Brian France has faced much fallout and backlash for it particularly in his and NASCAR’s “Drive for Diversity” program.
“I was frankly, very surprised, that my diversity efforts for my whole career would have been called into question, over this, in my view, a routine endorsement,” France said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.
The AP is also reporting that France has said that he’s had to have conversations with sponsors since he made his endorsement.”I made a few phone calls and clarified some things,” he told the AP. “That kind of goes with the territory.” It has also largely (and unsurprisingly) taken a hit on the sport’s appeal with minorities.
France mentioned how he has supported candidates from both parties in the past and even supported Barack Obama.
“I supported Obama. I went to his rallies. I parted with my hard-earned money. There was a movement going on, and I was really thrilled with the idea of the first African-American president,” he told the AP. “I did the same for Mitt Romney. In both of those cases, I have never agreed with all of their policies.”
Trump’s racial undertones of his policies, along with his recent delayed response in distancing himself from David Duke has turned many people off, and rightfully so.
“I’m not supporting him for all of his views, or his immigration views,” France told the AP. “I happen to be very enamored by the excitement he’s brought and the voter turnout that it is creating.” France is also trying to save the face of the sport, claiming it as his endorsement, as opposed to that of all of NASCAR.
France’s endorsement has also called into question NASCAR’s seriousness of diversity and in particular their “Drive to Diversity” program. Drive to Diversity is a program meant to provide support and opportunities toward minorities to race in the top divisions of NASCAR. The Trump endorsement sends mixed messages to people from a sport who has seen shrinking attendance and TV ratings and trying to expand from their deeply conservative and southern roots to be a national and international sport.
“We talked to the campaign about the endorsement that I made, versus the sport, and it’s hard to get that perfectly right all the time,” France said. He added, “I understand that the family is closely linked with NASCAR. … We’ve just always, you’ve seen politicians come to tracks, and it varies, some Democrats, some are Republicans, all have policies we do and don’t agree with,” he said.
It’s not the first presidential endorsement by a NASCAR CEO. France’s grandfather Bill France Sr., the founder of NASCAR, endorsed George Wallace for president in 1968.
Unless France gave a blind endorsement of Trump, the fallout shouldn’t come as a “surprise” to him. The France family is NASCAR and NASCAR is the France family. An endorsement by the CEO and literal owner of the sport is in turn, an endorsement by the sport, whether France wants that or not. Expecting anything else just shows ignorance towards the subject.
[ABC News/Photo: AP]