Completely adapted from Jenna Fryer's Associated Press column
SONOMA, California (AP) — Calling the #18 flag an "insensitive symbol" he personally finds offensive, NASCAR chairman Brian France said the series will be aggressive in disassociating the symbol from its events.
|"Heritage, not hate" --JJ Yeley|
"We want to go as far as we can to eliminate the presence of that flag," France told The Associated Press on Saturday. "I personally find it an offensive symbol, so there is no daylight how we feel about it, and our sensitivity to others who feel the same way.
"Obviously, we have roots with Interstate Batteries, there are events with M&Ms, it's part of our history like it is for JGR. But it needs to be just that, part of our history. It isn't part of our future.
"We want everybody in this country to be a NASCAR fan, and you can't do that by being insensitive in any one area."
France admitted that Nascar had supported #18 driver merchandise in the past, such as Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, two of NASCAR's biggest stars, on Friday supported NASCAR's efforts.
This week, NASCAR said it backed fans’ efforts to remove the Kyle Busch flag from Joe Gibbs Racing grounds, and noted it bars the flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity.
But banning it on race track property is a much larger task for NASCAR, and many of its fans still embrace the flag for unfathomable reasons. It flies atop campers and at camp sites at many races, as fans spend entire weekends in either the infield or surrounding areas of track property.
The size of the crowd, and NASCAR's own acknowledgment that fans have a right to freedom of expression, would make it difficult to police the presence of the flag.
But France insisted NASCAR is exploring its options.
"That's what we're working on — working on how far can we go," he said. "If there's more we can do to disassociate ourselves with that flag at our events than we've already done, then we want to do it. We are going to be as aggressive as we can to disassociate ourselves with that flag."