Appearing on Thursday’s “Today” Show on NBC, Bubba Wallace said he believes the sport will attract new and more diverse fans following Wednesday’s announcement that NASCAR will ban the display of Confederate flags at its racetracks.
The only full-time Black driver in NASCAR, Wallace was encouraged by the number of new fans who tuned into Wednesday’s Cup race from Martinsville Speedway.
“We had a lot of first-time watchers last night, which was super incredible, a lot from the African-American community that would never give NASCAR a chance,” Wallace said. “There were so many comments I read that were all shocked at how NASCAR’s approach to everything has really opened their eyes.
“I think my favorite one was Alvin Kamara, former Tennessee Vols who plays for the (NFL’s New Orleans) Saints, he was asking when’s the next race. He was giving lap-by-lap updates. It was incredible.
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“Everybody was tuned in last night, so it was a big watching party. Hopefully, that’s for the future as well. We encourage all backgrounds and all races to enjoy our crazy sport, it’s action-packed from the drop of the green flag to the drop of the checkered flag.”
Wallace and NASCAR both received expressions of support on social media from numerous sports figures and celebrities, including Kamara and NBA great LeBron James.
Wallace drove the iconic Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet emblazoned with #BlackLivesMatter on it to an 11th-place finish in Wednesday night’s Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.
He said he is confident NASCAR will vigorously enforce the flag ban and prevent its display at all NASCAR tracks.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll take really strict measures to not allow this to happen,” Wallace said. “If it doesn’t, then there’ll be another conversation I will have. Not sure exactly how NASCAR is planning on this.
“I know fans are starting to be allowed to come back (to racetracks after the COVID-19 hiatus) here in a couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see. There are a lot of things unfolding for our sport and for our nation and really the world, and we’re just piecing it together day by day. We’ll just continue to push on and fight for what’s right.
“… We want change, it starts with us. We have to start basically from the roots and go from ground up and really implement what we’re trying to say in our message.”
Wallace also was asked about comments made by part-time NASCAR Truck Series driver Ray Ciccarelli, who said Wednesday that he disagreed with the ban of the Confederate flag and will quit the sport at the end of the current season.
“I seen that comment and I was kind of baffled by it, honestly,” Wallace said. “I think he just solidified his career and no longer being part of NASCAR.
“I would encourage NASCAR to really step up and look at that if he tries to reinstate. I seen a comment where to most, (the Confederate flag is) a sign of heritage. But to a large group of people, it’s a sign of hate and oppression and just a lot of negative and bad things that come to mind.
“We’re not saying you can’t fly it at your house. You can do whatever you want. But when it comes to a sporting event where we want all races, everybody to be included – inclusion is what we’re trying to accomplish here.
“Unity, bring everybody together and enjoy a sporting event and cheer on your favorite driver, not be shy and introverted because they see a Confederate flag flying. They should be able to live life to the fullest with nothing holding them back.
“And if the flag is holding them back, then let’s just take it down for the sporting event. We’re not saying get rid of it out of your life completely.”
Bubba Wallace on ‘Today’ show: ‘We want to change. It starts with us’ originally appeared on NBCSports.com