Recent remarks by a NASCAR driver and some of the same issues with a drag racer after last season raise an interesting quandary as to how a racer acts etiquette-wise, who does he talk to and what and why the situations arise. Do racers or for that matter, any athlete have a right to privacy?
First off, supposedly both of these situations allegedly involved racial overtones and what exactly was said and not said is technically not known. What could be a disturbing feature to both of these incidents is the way that NASCAR and Don Schumacher Racing handled the situations.
What we know is that 29 year old Jeremy Clements from South Carolina is a part-time racecar driver in NASCAR’s Nationwide series. The incident in Daytona was a casual one where an editor (news releases say he was a reporter) for MTV was looking to interview another driver and a NASCAR official along with Clements, help the ‘reporter’ find the other driver. While walking for a few minutes, during informal conversation, Clements used the ‘n’ word though not towards anyone in particular (source — ESPN). Nothing more would have been heard about it but NASCAR felt compelled to suspend Clements indefinitely. That reaction seems extremely severe and intransigent.
In the case of 30 year old Spencer Massey from Texas, who is a Top Fuel driver in the NHRA, purportedly was less than civil during the end of the season awards dinner. Massey brought his own beer into the banquet room and evidently during Antron Brown’s speech – Brown is Massey’s teammate and won an historical championship as the first black American title holder – threw beer and then said something that wasn’t proper and rumored to be racial. Schumacher quickly let him go. Massey then apologized to Brown, who forgave Massey, saying they were friends. Schumacher has since that episode, somewhat strangely hired Massey back, right before the season started (source — Fansided). Massey is undergoing anger management as we speak.
These incidences are not the norm, however neither are they isolated nor unusual and yet don’t really offer any undertones to some larger racial conspiracy or otherwise. Rather, they are a snapshot of human nature, mistakes, political correctness and the white-wash era in which we live. What these situations say is that regardless if you’re an athlete or not, you cannot make a mistake verbally and if you do, you’re ostracized. Then quash the story. Check out out more about political correctness here.
Let me be clear, I don’t condone any of this behavior and personally have a hard time understanding why race, creed, color or religion has anything to do with anything. I, like many Californians, grew up in a mixed society and have and have had friends of every persuasion under the sun. I don’t like to talk about it but I even knew several Caucasians from Venice, California. Egads! I know, it seems way out there and to further muddy the waters, yes, I admit to being friends with Lutherans. In fact, and this hard to say: I’m a German-Irish Lutheran. I even have a very small percentage of Indian in me! Oh, the humanity! Can you imagine and yet, there, I said it. Okay, I feel better now.
Anyway, the egregious and careless behavior by these two drivers is nothing to laugh about but we have to think about the bigger picture and make sure we don’t go overboard and become reactionary. Why NASCAR felt obliged to ban Clements is beyond me no matter what or how the slur was said. If Massey never said anything derogatory, then I still don’t understand why he was fired and then forgiven by Brown. Forgiven for what? If everything is fine then why the anger management? Very confusing.
Is it over-reaction
We don’t know the specifics of these two occurrences and the white-washing and hyper-sensitive reactions on all sides of what happened bother me more than anything else. And I’m not the only who thinks their was over-reaction — check out USA Today article by Jeff Gluck regarding Jeremy Clements.
But my point is this: What does a driver do? Is literally everything a driver does under public scrutiny whether he’s in an official capacity or not? Racial insensitivity shouldn’t be tolerated but especially in Clements situation, he was having a casual conversation that wasn’t on the record; yet he’s out of racing. There are other disturbing issues regarding the Massey deal that I may jump into at another time. However, the questions about conduct and etiquette are real. Can a professional driver act or have any conversation that isn’t susceptible to political correctness?
I’m not sure there are any direct answers to these questions or circumstances and might say more about society in general and the current state of affairs, than anything else. Does someone have a right to be who they are, good or bad, and do they have a right to some privacy?
So what do you think?
Daryle W. Hier