A few years ago I spoke with a radio executive in the New York area and asked him why there weren’t any terrestrial country music stations in the country’s largest market. He explained that past stations actually got good ratings, but media buyers still couldn’t get over the stereotypes of NASCAR as poor white trash. They didn’t purchase ads, and stations didn’t last.
Fans at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and anybody who shows up at future races, need to think about that before they do anything as classless as boo the First Lady of the United States. Everybody can exercise their First Amendment rights if they want to. But don’t be surprised if other companies that were already on the way to scaling back hold back even more dollars. Those potential sponsors just can’t afford to be associated with what they feel are disrespectful, drunken hayseeds.
Booing Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden before the start of the Ford 400 was a short-term pleasure. But be assured that there are fabricators, tire changers and spotters who won’t have a gig when the bell rings at Daytona as a result. The NASCAR universe just ate its own young at a volume not seen since “Lorne Greene’s Wild Kingdom” went off the air.
Had just Obama and Biden been on the podium for the command to start engines, this wouldn’t be quite as bad. But the first and second ladies shared that moment with retired war veteran Sgt. Andrew Barry.
Before Sunday NASCAR could always wrap itself in the flag and be embraced by the war-hawking crowd. Hell, even Blackwater sponsored an entry in the Truck Series for a cup of coffee.
That position is no longer secure. NASCAR had a moment as pathetic as that gay soldier who risked his life for our country, only to be belittled by the crowd while asking a question via satellite at a Republican presidential debate.
Even for the most fervent NASCAR corporate supporters, it was a cringe-worthy moment. As Michael Jordan once said in explaining why he declined to support a certain political candidate, “Republicans buy shoes, too.”
NASCAR sponsors want no part of this fight. If the fans continue to drag them into this mud wrestling match, trust me, they will make a run for it.
And some damn good people in the garage will be forced to run to the unemployment line.