As the world becomes smaller and cultures collide so do sporting options.
Sports that traditionally were outside the cultural realm of communities of color suddenly became relevant to them. Sports like race car driving, e-sports, extreme sports and more have crossed over, however, the cultural intersections are still raw.
During a virtual race on Twitch on Sunday night, NASCAR driver Kyle Larson was caught dropping the “n-bomb”. Larson is white and NASCAR suspended him indefinitely on Monday. Right before the official NASCAR suspension, Larson’s race team suspended him without pay.
On Monday morning, NASCAR issued a penalty report for Larson listing his offense as “behavioral”. They also said Larson must attend sensitivity training “as directed by NASCAR.”
“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,” a spokesperson for NASCAR said. “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.”
Inclusive Means Excluded If You Want To Keep The Culture
NASCAR is trying.
For starters, they have the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program. It aligns its drivers with a team of executives, athletic trainers, crew chiefs and mentors helping them achieve professional success. The hope is to improve their likelihood of reaching one of the three NASCAR national series.
Selected drivers will compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series or Bojangles’ Summer Shootout Series.
Each year the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program along with its competition arm, Rev Racing, seeks high quality applicants from diverse backgrounds. They work to develop them into successful NASCAR drivers. There is even a selection process that begins with a Combine.
However, that is corporate. The culture behind the sport might differ from corporate’s interpretation of the future of the sport.
Casually uttering the slur shows comfort with usage, and Larson seemed very comfortable. Once another driver realized the Larson didn’t know he could still be heard live, he was warned, “Kyle you’re talking to everyone bud.”
If that wasn’t already cause for alarm, peep the statements from Chip Ganassi Racing, NASCAR and Larson. There is no real culpability for what went on.
“The words that he chose to use are offensive and unacceptable,” Chip Ganassi Racing said in a statement. Larson’s team suspended him without pay for an indefinite amount of time. However, they did not call the driver racist.
NASCAR’s initial statement was, “NASCAR is aware of insensitive language used by a driver during an iRacing event on Sunday, and is currently gathering more information.”
There we go again, redefining words. The “insensitive” should have been replaced with racist. However, if you live in a culture where locker room talk includes racial jibes, well, we all know what happens to high profile locker room speak adherents.
Kyle Larson used a racially charged word. All affiliated with him have given him a pass. Until they can understand why and work on true inclusion, there will always exist a divide that without work will remain an ever-present obstacle.