On Tuesday, NASCAR suspended Nationwide driver Jeremy Clements for what it termed an "intolerable and insensitive remark." On Thursday, Clements gave ESPN's Marty Smith the broad outlines of the remark, without explicitly repeating it.
Apparently Clements was walking through the garage with an MTV reporter and a representative from NASCAR. According to Clements, he was escorting them to Johanna Long's hauler and was not in a specific interview situation. During the walk, he was talking with the reporter and made the remark. The remark was not recorded, and conversation continued afterward.
So what exactly did he say? He would not disclose the exact word or phrase. Here's the breakdown:
In a one-on-one interview with ESPN, Clements would not verbalize the specific comments he made, but when pressed for clarity about whether or not it was racial, he paused. Asked again, "Was it racial or not? Maybe not in context, but in term?" Clements replied: "Correct."
"When you say 'racial' remark, it wasn't used to describe anybody or anything," Clements said. "So that's all I'm going to say to that. And it really wasn't. I was describing racing, and the word I used was incorrect and I shouldn't have said it. It shouldn't be used at all."
Clements owned up to making the comment. He will be suspended for a minimum of two races, and will need to undergo an as-yet-undetermined form of speech advisement. He expressed surprise that he was suspended.
Although there have been questions about Clements' rights of free speech, this is a private situation with a private organization. The constitutional right of free speech does not apply in this situation. More specifically, Clements is free to say whatever he wishes, but not free from consequence for those words if they reflect badly on himself, his team or his organization.
And given that this is a racially charged word, even if not used directly in regard to an individual, you can understand why NASCAR is so interested in keeping a lid on this one. The sport has more than enough problems appealing to races other than whites without its own drivers adding to the problem.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-
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