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NASCAR President Steve Phelps on Racial Injustice: 'Our Sport Must Do Better'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2020

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 17: NASCAR President Steve Phelps walks the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 17, 2020 in Darlington, South Carolina. NASCAR resumes the season after the nationwide lockdown due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19).  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed concerns about racism both inside the sport and the country prior to Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Associated Press (h/t ESPN) noted Phelps delivered a message over the radio sets of the 40 cars prior to a 30-second moment of silence.

FOX: NASCAR @NASCARONFOX

A moment of silence and a message from NASCAR President Steve Phelps and drivers. https://t.co/jy1U48qeLX

"Thank you for your time," Phelps said. "Our country is in pain and people are justifiably angry, demanding to be heard. The black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better."

He continued, saying, "The time is now to listen, to understand and to stand against racism and racial injustice. We ask our drivers ... and all our fans to join us in this mission, to take a moment of reflection, to acknowledge that we must do better as a sport, and join us as we now pause and take a moment to listen."

The Fox broadcast also showed a video featuring a number of NASCAR drivers saying they will "work together to make real change" and take other steps in the wake of George Floyd's killing on May 25.

Bubba Wallace @BubbaWallace

We will listen and learn! #BlackLivesMattters https://t.co/AYoYdY8IlX

NASCAR also released a statement Monday:

NASCAR @NASCAR

https://t.co/ALtTVvzfoy

"With its roots in the South and one-time embrace of Confederate symbols, NASCAR has a checkered racial history," the AP wrote. "The organization has launched diversity programs but still struggles to shake its reputation as a largely white sport."

The latest issue came when Chip Ganassi Racing fired Kyle Larson in April after he said the N-word during an iRacing event on Twitch.

NASCAR suspended Larson indefinitely and issued a statement:

"NASCAR has made diversity and inclusion a priority and will not tolerate the type of language used by Kyle Larson during Sunday’s iRacing event. Our Member Conduct Guidelines are clear in this regard, and we will enforce these guidelines to maintain an inclusive environment for our entire industry and fan base."

Bubba Wallace, who is the only black driver in NASCAR's top series, wore a shirt with the words "I Can't Breathe" on Sunday.

Dianne Gallagher @DianneG

Here’s #NASCAR driver @BubbaWallace wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” #BlackLivesMatter shirt before the race in Atlanta today. https://t.co/Lir74PYHFr

The words are particularly notable since that is what Floyd said when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while holding him to the ground.

The killing of Floyd sparked nationwide protests in an effort to address police brutality and racism in the United States. There have even been a number of protests in cities across the world.

Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, the other officers who assisted in the arrest, were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

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