Jimmie Johnson has been speaking up over the last week as protests continue in the wake of George Floyd’s May 25 killing in Minneapolis.
Johnson hasn’t always been the most outspoken person on social issues. But he spoke out on Monday to condemn racial inequality and echoed the Green Bay Packers’ call for changes to systemic racism and injustice on Friday morning.
It hurts to see our country being torn apart by racism & hate. I can’t pretend to understand what black men & women have experienced but I can speak out & condemn racial inequality. I hope love for all mankind can prevail & make changes to build a better future for our children pic.twitter.com/ciLHHAhlDn— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) June 1, 2020
The seven-time champion was asked Friday if he’s started thinking about what tangible things he can do to address inequality. And Johnson said that was the “big question” he has for himself right now.
“Yeah I think just generally, that’s the big question I have for myself right now. I’m trying to learn and educate myself and really listen during these times,” Johnson said. “I find the more I listen, the more I learn. There is a lot of noise out there right now obviously, but when you sit down and listen, you realize a lot of the injustices that take place across a broad spectrum. As a figure of our sport and somebody that’s just a citizen that cares in this country, I feel like for me personally, it’s really time to listen and I look forward to the journey it takes me on and the ways I can be active.”
Johnson is one of two living seven-time NASCAR champions. The other is Richard Petty, who said in 2017 that anyone who didn’t stand up for the national anthem “ought to be out of the country.” Petty’s comments came as the topic of Colin Kaepernick’s protests against systemic racism during the national anthem were a national talking point.
One of the people Johnson has been listening to is Bubba Wallace, the man who drives the No. 43 car owned by Petty. Wallace, the only black driver who drives full-time in any of NASCAR’s top three series, said he’s been encouraging other drivers to use their voices for positive social change.
Wallace revealed on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s podcast that a cousin of his was killed in a police shooting in 2003 when Wallace was a kid. Johnson said he didn’t know that part of Wallace’s family history until recently.
“To start, I just called to check in with him. I just wanted to know how he was doing,” Johnson said. “In that phone call, I learned a lot about him, his family and the things that they’ve been through. His cousin was killed while he was young, to learn that story, I just had no idea. I had no idea the challenges he’s been faced with. It’s part of that listening stuff that I mentioned earlier. I have many friends of color and race, and just checking in with them and understanding. Just curious, how are you? How is this impacting you? That’s been a great learning point for me during these times.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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