Fox Sports ‘NASCAR RaceHub’ aired a segment Thursday afternoon with comedian Sarah Tiana that was supposed to be funny.
It was not. Instead, it was tasteless. And that’s being nice.
The segment, which you can see below, starts off innocuous enough. But when Tiana gets to the topic of Daniel Suarez, she jokes that Suarez is “least likely to hit the wall … or get close to any wall now that Trump is President.” There’s even a graphic that accompanies the joke.
Here's the portion of the segment that includes the Suarez "jokes" pic.twitter.com/J5RaOsFSaB
— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) March 16, 2018
After the graphic appears on screen, Tiana then cracks that “I’m just happy he’s driving with insurance.” We shouldn’t have to explain the stereotypes at play for both of those jokes surrounding the only Mexican-born driver in the Cup Series. The wall joke doesn’t even make sense anyway, but it’s pointless to waste brainpower on something so inane.
Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR declined to comment on the segment to Yahoo Sports. Fox has deleted the video from its Twitter account since this article was published and issued a statement to Yahoo Sports on Friday afternoon.
“The views expressed on Thursday’s NASCAR Race Hub by comedian/actress Sarah Tiana do not represent the views of FOX Sports,” the statement said. “We regret any insensitivity displayed toward drivers, teams and fan bases, and are reviewing the process involved in creating the segment.”
Suarez, the sport’s first non-American champion when he won the Xfinity Series title in 2016, has been awkwardly thrust into political jokes since NASCAR CEO Brian France’s endorsement of President Donald Trump in February of 2016. As you know, Trump has made a proposed border wall a large part of his campaign and presidential rhetoric.
Suarez has handled the situation with aplomb. When he was asked that March about France’s endorsement, he said “I think Brian can do everything he wants on his own, but NASCAR is different. I’m in NASCAR, I’m not in Brian France whatever.”
France was defensive when he was asked about Suarez and his support for a presidential candidate who supported a border wall the day after the driver won the Xfinity Series title. The sport touts its Drive for Diversity as often as it can, and Suarez has been the shining example.
“But on my diversity, nobody, nobody in this company, has worked harder, done more and resourced it better than me,” France said. I founded the Diversity Council. I fought for every single thing that makes sense, because that’s my core belief about diversity. It’s very, very important. I talk about it frequently.”
“And my efforts there should never be challenged, no matter what my political views might be. That’s a ridiculous thing to do.”
NASCAR had said France’s endorsement was a personal and private one as Trump had said he received the endorsement of NASCAR.
Kitschy segments aren’t anything new to RaceHub or Fox’s NASCAR coverage. After all, this is the network that employs Michael Waltrip to serve as an analyst and walk up and down pit road before Cup Series races in an utterly useless and unentertaining fashion. And with NASCAR out west for three weeks, the network has based the show in Los Angeles for a week and brought in noted NASCAR “expert” Jason Whitlock in for “analysis.” The first question of Whitlock’s segment with Austin Dillon this week was if drivers were athletes.
The segment with Tiana crossed the line from kitschy to offensive when it came to Suarez. Fox’s NASCAR coverage has a tendency to sugarcoat criticism and things about the sport that aren’t great news. Yet it somehow felt that it was a good idea to have someone publicly demean one of the sport’s drivers because of his heritage?
Even if Tiana isn’t a Fox employee, the promotion and airing of her “jokes” are a tacit endorsement. Did anyone at Fox not realize making a border wall joke about Suarez wasn’t the best idea when the graphic was being made?
NASCAR still struggles when it comes to diversity and pushes Suarez, Darrell Wallace — who was on set for the RaceHub segment — and Kyle Larson whenever it has the opportunity. And those diversity efforts make it undeniable that the sport is more diverse than it was even ten years ago.
But as the mainstream reaction to anthem comments by team owners Richard Petty and Richard Childress showed last year, NASCAR still struggles with stereotypes of its own. And those stereotypes are only reinforced when the sport’s television partner airs a segment that includes derogatory stereotypes about one of the few non-white drivers.
Fox can, and should, do better. NASCAR, its fans, and Suarez all deserve it.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.