I’ve never spoken to Jeremy Clements, and have no idea what was in his heart when he uttered the n-word to MTV blogger Marty Beckerman at the 2013 Daytona Nationwide opener.
I just know that he shouldn’t be allowed back at a NASCAR track until the 2014 Daytona Nationwide opener.
Sure, whatever he did pales in comparison to other issues of race that mar NASCAR’s history. Shoot, baseball integrated in 1947, NASCAR formed in 1948, and yet, 60-plus years later one African-American, Darrell Wallace Jr., is in a full-time ride in one of NASCAR’s top-three series. The stories of black NASCAR racing pioneer Wendell Scott being marginalized have finally been exposed to the point they don’t need to be repeated here. (That said, check out Brian Donovan’s “Hard Driving” for the full recap). Stories of a black driver, team employee and race official being harassed are troublesome enough without them all happening within the last 15 years.
At the Super Bowl, players from the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens sparred over the issue of gay players in the locker room. NASCAR still seems to be fighting much of the last generation’s social battle.
So it’s understandable for people to feel that Clements is being unfairly served up as a scapegoat for NASCAR’s past.
It’s just an incorrect feeling.
Everybody in the garage knows how much NASCAR needs to make its racial issues finally go away. NASCAR made a great decision by not allowing PGA golfer Bubba Watson to drive his “General Lee” show car at Phoenix last year. The car would have been fine at the World Series, but not at a NASCAR race. Too sensitive a subject for countless reasons.
NASCAR showed it would hold itself to a higher standard on racial sensitivity. It was a clear message to those in the garage that they had better do the same.
Clements apparently didn’t get the message.
He’s apologized, and he’ll receive sensitivity training, as was reported Saturday. NASCAR VP Steve O’Donnell told scribes the goal was to get Clements back in a car “as soon as possible.”
I partially agree. The goal should be to get Clements back in a car. But the goal also should be to make the consequences of this behavior sufficient to the point that we don’t have to go through this again…and again…and again.
Everybody deserves a second chance, and I look forward to welcoming him back with open arms.
Follow Josh Stewart on Twitter @JoshNASCARWWE.