Kyle Larson’s impromptu Twitter question-and-answer session got a bit political on Monday.
Larson, on his way to a sprint car race, was taking questions from followers when one asked who his favorite NFL team was. Larson didn’t reply with a specific team, but rather one that did a certain thing.
Any one that stands
— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) June 18, 2018
This is awesome.
— Noah Gragson (@NoahGragson) June 18, 2018
The national anthem is obviously not mentioned in Larson’s reply but the reference is clear. After all, standing for the national anthem has only been the biggest NFL topic since Donald Trump became president.
Larson’s reply seems earnest, and he has every right to feel the way he does about the politically-charged topic inflamed by the president despite NFL player protests originating and continuing as protests of systemic inequality in American society.
But it’s an ill-advised reply even if it plays well with NASCAR’s fanbase and even if it superficially ignores the fact that NASCAR drivers used to sit in their cars during the national anthem.
A large subset of NASCAR’s fanbase may side with Larson and Trump on the issue of player protests. But there are many fans who see the true purpose of the protests and the way they’ve been capitalized on for the purposes of polarization and political gain.
And besides, Larson and Keselowski should have been aware enough to see the ridiculousness that ensued the last time prominent NASCAR figures opined on the anthem. The fall remarks team owners Richard Petty and Richard Childress made about the protests — on the heels of inflammatory comments by Trump — renewed more mainstream jokes about old NASCAR stereotypes and the sport itself took days to issue its own weak statement in an attempt to separate from the views of Petty and Childress.
There’s absolutely no need for NASCAR’s stars to be starting and spurring this dormant discussion right now. The prudent decision would have been to ignore the question and move on. Larson didn’t. Now he, along with everyone else involved in a sport publicly desperate to shed the stereotypes of the past needs to hope his tweet doesn’t lead to more mainstream derision.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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