© 2023 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NASCAR, NFL Confront Symbols Of Hate

Fibonacci Blue via Flickr (Creative Commons BY 2.0)

If there is a positive to be taken from this heretofore miserable year, it may be that 2020 is when we learned how powerful images and symbols can be.

Though the dominant icon of the year is bound to be the face mask that we’ve all been forced to wear, there are other symbols that will help to define 2020 in history. 

One of them, a Confederate flag, has gone front and center on the sports stage, and may lead the way to the toppling of another.


Since the dawn of the Civil War nearly 150 years ago, the Confederate flag which flew over the states which broke away from the Union, has vexed the part of this nation that is north and west of the Potomac. 

Northerners and Westerners have wondered how and why large numbers of people could hold onto to a symbol that, for many, breathes life into hatred and racism as the country has tried to move on and move forward.

The sport of stock car racing, as embodied in its governing organization, NASCAR, has historically embraced the flag, as fans and drivers have flown the Stars and Bars and worn them as a badge of honor, rather than as an emblem of suffering and shame.

Five years ago, NASCAR took baby steps toward distancing itself from the offending object by asking its fans to refrain from flying the flag at its tracks. The notion was taken as a suggestion and went largely unheeded.

Then, earlier this month, Bubba Wallace, the lone African American driver on NASCAR’s premier series, called the sport out, saying it was time for the flag to go. Two days later, the sport pulled the plug on the flag.

The same design had also occupied corners of some state flags, but it has slowly, but surely disappeared from flag poles across the South, with one holdout hanging on,   

The state of Mississippi historically and defiantly held on to the Confederate design in its flag. That is until the past week, when the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference declared that no championship events would take place there.

Then, athletes at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State said they would no longer play at those institutions while the Stars and Bars flew there.

The new football coaches there saw their potential recruiting sources about to dry up and called on the flag to be changed. Lo and behold, the state legislature voted over the weekend to remove the design from the flag. The governor said he will sign the measure. 

Hopefully, the wave of woke that has washed over the nation since the murder of George Floyd will flood out one of the biggest remaining symbols of racism, the name and logo of the Washington NFL team.

The founding owner of the team, George Preston Marshall, fought desegregation in the 1950s and 60s and saw to it that Washington was the last team to have a Black player. 

Marshall’s statue has been removed from the former stadium and his name has been stricken from the team’s Ring of Fame. Now’s the time for the team to do what’s right and change its name.   

And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games…whenever they return.




Get in touch



Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.