NASCAR Puts Muzzle on Drivers and Freedom of Speech

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst IJuly 28, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 02:  NASCAR chairman Brian France speaks to members of the media prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 2, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It was announced earlier this week as the Associated Press (AP) learned that at least two star drivers this season have been fined, as much as $50,000, for making critical comments against the sport. NASCAR will not allow the drivers to be publicly identified, but sources told AP that the comments were considered disparaging to the sport.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston confirmed this, but would not discuss details. His explanation why appeared in an article on NASCAR.com.

"It is the sanctioning body's obligation on behalf of the industry and our fans to protect the sport's brand," Poston said. "Any action taken by NASCAR has nothing to do with the drivers expressing an opinion—it's focused on actions or comments that materially damage the sport."

"We have specifically discussed this in meetings with teams, drivers and stakeholders."
These actions by NASCAR have been likened to practices of other professional sports leagues, such as the NFL and NBA.

Though is this the right thing to do?

Criticism is something that should be welcomed. It’s always said that people should be able to take negativity in order to be able to improve in the future. With NASCAR putting this in force, are they going against this rule?

Also, it was criticism that was brought against the sport that brought forth some of the rule changes.

Racing back to the caution was taken away as a result of criticism after a race at New Hampshire with regard to how Dale Jarrett’s car was sitting on the track.

Double-file restarts were brought forth this year as a result of criticism towards the lack of good, hard racing on restarts.

The Car of Tomorrow was brought forth as a result of criticism towards the safety of the cars.

These are three big things that wouldn’t had happened if it wasn’t for criticism against the sport.

Also on NASCAR.com in their community section, Poston wrote a blog post with regards to what was going on titled: “Working Together For The Good of the Sport”.

One of the comments he makes in his blog post is, “No business owner would permit employees, vendors or partners to damage their business—nor can we.  It is the sanctioning body’s obligation on behalf of the entire industry to protect the brand, just like every other major sport.”

That is true in most cases; however, wouldn’t a company want to know why they were doing badly and how they could improve? If I was the manager of a company, I’d be welcome to comments so I could improve my business.

Therefore, with respect to NASCAR, they need the comments from the drivers so that they can better stay at the top of their game.

Though what I find even bigger than just the “criticism needed” aspect that I’ve touched, is, by limiting what people can say, aren’t you taking away their right to freedom of speech?

Freedom of speech is something that we’ve worked on building and in this simple step, it’s slowly being taken away.

So if you bring out the scale and weigh the options, what’s better to have breached? Have a couple of bad comments or be known for breaking freedom of speech? I’d think theat by violating freedom of speech, you’re apt to make more people mad.

I do understand that the argument is that comments can be hurtful, but they may only last in the media for a week or two. Also, as stated earlier, they can also be helpful.

Though breaking a right to every human being and letting that be shown, in my opinion... I think that’d do more damage.


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