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Bubba Watson has owned the General Lee from the 1970s and '80s TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard" since 2012. On Thursday evening, Watson, who bought the car at auction for $110,000 and restored its interior, announced he is making a drastic change to the car's appearance. Watson tweeted he'll paint over the Confederate battle flag on the car's roof.
The announcement was met with a mix of kudos and cynicism.
Some lauded Watson for deciding to remove the Confederate flag in line with a movement to eliminate what's widely seen as a symbol of racism and antebellum slavery from the public consciousness in the wake of the murders of nine people in a historically black church during a June 17 prayer service.
Others believe Watson's decision is motivated by potential backlash he could face as owner of the car. Television network TV Land has pulled scheduled re-runs of the show in the wake of the South Carolina mass murder. The network's decision dovetails with an effort in the Palmetto State to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capital building, as well Walmart removing Confederate flag-adorned merchandise from its stores and NASCAR asking fans to no longer fly the flag at its races.
In February 2012, Watson had offered to drive the General Lee, which he has driven to past PGA Tour events, to a NASCAR race in Phoenix. The auto-racing body denied Watson's offer, consistent with their long-held views on the Confederate flag.
“The show was not racist. But I understand why people would get upset with the flag,” Watson said in February 2012 at the Northern Trust Open in the wake of NASCAR’s decision.
“Obviously, I don’t stand for the Confederate flag,” Watson added. “The Confederate flag was not used (in the show) for what people see it as today, so that’s sad. But NASCAR was built on moonshining, so the show was built on moonshining. I thought it was fun. I didn’t buy the car to get publicity; I bought it because I love it.”