Nelson Piquet Jr. was fined $10,000 and required to complete sensitivity training after posting a homophobic remark to while commenting on a picture that fellow Nationwide Series driver Parker Kligerman posted.
“Nelson Piquet Jr. recently communicated an offensive and derogatory term that cannot be tolerated in our sport,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations said in a NASCAR statement. “NASCAR’s Code of Conduct explicitly spells out in the 2013 rule book our position regarding the use of disparaging terms. We expect our entire industry to abide by this Code.”
Kligerman had posted a self-taken picture and Piquet responded with the derogatory remark. According to USA Today, Piquet tweeted that the comment was just teasing between friends before deleting the tweet.
Piquet was also put on NASCAR probation. He was previously on probation for an incident that involved a failed kick towards the groin of Brian Scott.
Earlier in the season, Jeremy Clements, another Nationwide Series driver, was suspended for two weeks because of a racial slur in a conversation with a reporter at Daytona International Speedway. In the NASCAR statement about Clements' suspension, O'Donnell also referenced the NASCAR Code of Conduct.
If you're wondering why there's a difference in punishment for using a homophobic slur versus a racial slur, you're not alone. But again, this is NASCAR. Inconsistency is the sanctioning body's version of consistency. This is, after all, the sport that just added an extra driver to its playoffs because it could.
If both remarks are violations of the NASCAR codes of conduct, they deserve equal punishment. Plain and simple. There's no difference between using the word that Piquet did and the word that Clements did, except for the difference in groups that the words reference. It ends there. By issuing the punishment that was given for Piquet, the impression is given -- intended or not -- that NASCAR feels that a homophobic slur is not as offensive as a racial slur.
That's a horrible dichotomy to create.
The sanctioning body might have realized it overreacted in the punishment that was handed out to Clements. And that's a fine feeling to have. However, the precedent for punishment for an derogatory epithet was set in February. Without acknowledgement that the punishment was wrong or why this is different, it looks that NASCAR views the words used as ones of differing severities. Again, that's wrong.
While the steps that NASCAR took Tuesday against Piquet can be seen as ones of progress after inaction in 2011, we shouldn't simply be satisfied about progress. Perhaps that's a utopian point of view, but there should be no reason to think that the punishment standards for slurs is based on the audience degraded.