Sunday, June 15, 2008 GuestPost: When $4 Gas Doesn't Matter - Racing and Racism

[Editor's Note: I don't really mess with NASCAR all like that, so I missed this harrowing story of race and sexism. Luckily, my right hand man/ace boon/prime lead generator EbonyGentleman is on top of this whole thing. As usual, be gracious hosts and show our guest some love you-know-where.]

Mainstream media loves to portay the NBA as having an 'image' problem. The players are percieved as 'thuggish', 'slow' 'greedy' and 'lazy'. Posterboys for this ideology commonly include Allen Iverson and Latrell Sprewell.

Iverson is a frequent whipping boy for his "Practice!...Practice?!?" tirade, personal attitude and cornrows. "Spree" infamously quipped during a contract dispute once that he had "...a family to feed" when he turned down a $21 million deal.

Throw in the post Air Jordan era, lower scoring, overhyped teen players going pro early, and the occasional rape, possession or DUI charge and it's easy to see how things can get skewed.

The common conclusion is that the NBA, for all intents and purposes is seen as 'too black.'

While I can't debate the demographics of the players, I can argue that other sports leagues have more impending issues. Take NASCAR for example.

I live in North Carolina, approximately 30 minutes from the famed North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, and 90 minutes from Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord. NASCAR is the fastest growing sport in the country, with attendance rivaling the National Football League.

My father attended races when he was growing up in the sixties, and has many a horror story of racial slurs, rebel flags and harassment. In an organization that is deeply rooted in the South, where is the progress towards a 21st century fanbase, despite its checkered history?

Times have changed, haven't they?

Currently, there are no black drivers racing in any of the top three NASCAR circuits. Granted, there isn't a 'draft' system in NASCAR...promotion is based on talent. But where is the drive to welcome black fans with open arms? We like to see cars go fast too. Sometimes, we even drive them...when we can afford it. The image problem continues with the story of Mauricia Grant, black female and former NASCAR employee.

NASCAR chairman Brian France denied Wednesday that a former official complained to her supervisors about racial and sexual discrimination, claims she alleged led to her eventual firing.

Mauricia Grant filed a $225 million suit against NASCAR on Tuesday, alleging racial discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliatory termination. Grant, who is black, worked as a technical inspector for NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series.

France said NASCAR will review Grant's claims, which included 23 specific incidents of alleged sexual harassment and 34 specific incidents of alleged racial and gender discrimination she says began when she was hired in January 2005 through her October 2007 firing.

NASCAR will not disclose why Grant was fired late in the 2007 season.

In her suit, she claims she was referred to as "Nappy Headed Mo" and "Queen Sheba," by co-workers, was often told she worked on "colored people time," and was frightened by one official who routinely made references to the Ku Klux Klan. She was asked by series director Joe Balash if her exercise program included "an urban obstacle course with a flat-screen TV on your back" and that other officials used racial slurs around her.

In addition, Grant said she was subjected to sexual advances from male co-workers, two of whom allegedly exposed themselves to her, and graphic and lewd jokes.
And you wonder if black NASCAR fans are in the closet, or if they even exist. Wendell Scott must be turning in his grave.

But don't fret, there IS a top black race car driver...just not in this country. Ladies, this part is for you...

Meet....Lewis Englishman, who drives a Formula One Mercedes. Twenty-Three years old, and he's single (as far as I know). He has won a race this season already.

But even he has faced racism across the pond. This is from February of this year.

Question: What does this lawsuit say about race and gender relations in sports and the workplace? What does NASCAR need to do to attract more black fans? Can it be done?

Former NASCAR employee files $225 million discrimination [AutoWeek]

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