Count NASCAR as one sports governing body that seems uncomfortable with its sport being thrust into the political spotlight. After the sport was embroiled in controversy by the recent Bubba Wallace fracas, cars have been increasingly displaying political messages and slogans.
In recent weeks, cars have been painted with slogans including “Black Lives Matter,” “Back the Blue,” and even “Trump 2020.” Although cars have in the past infrequently had political decals and stickers on them (one driver actually received an FEC admonishment for sporting a Bush/Cheney sticker on his car in 2004), the recent increasing profusion political messages on cars has NASCAR officials reportedly engaging in the “early stages” of a discussion about banning political slogans and sponsorships outright on cars.
According to the report, the ban would encompass both messages like “Black Lives Matter” (which was added by Bubba Wallace’s team to his car when it did not have a primary sponsor for a race) and “Trump 2020,” which was purchased by a pro-Trump PAC as part of a nine-race sponsorship package for Corey LaJoie’s car.
The move, if approved, might well be considered a welcome change from the increasing politicization of sports by many sports fans. Americans who are starved for the return of live sports will have to, in many cases, accept ostentatious displays of political messaging with their sports in the coming season — in particular from the NBA, which plans to paint courts with “Black Lives Matter” slogans and allow players to wear certain social justice slogans on their uniforms (but not, it should be noted, slogans urging the Chinese to free Hong Kong or to treat the Uighurs with basic human decency).
NASCAR, perhaps more than any other sport, relies heavily on sponsorship money to keep race teams operating and on the track, so any move to cut off a source of potential sponsorship money comes with an opportunity cost. LaJoie himself did not seem thrilled to have driven a car with an overtly political slogan on it. After the sponsorship was announced, LaJoie added a line to his Twitter bio that stated that he didn’t have anything to do with what went on his car, then quickly made his Twitter account private.