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NASCAR Bans Confederate Flag At All Of Its Events And Properties

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The call to remove Confederate symbols is echoing across the country. Today House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requested that 11 statues of Confederate soldiers be taken down from the U.S. Capitol. And NASCAR has now banned the Confederate flag from all events, including tonight's race in southern Virginia. The stock car racing association has been under pressure to prohibit the flag for years. Jeff Gluck covers NASCAR for The Athletic. He joins me now via Skype.

Hi, Jeff.

JEFF GLUCK: Hi, Mary Louise. How are you doing?

KELLY: I am well, thank you. What exactly is NASCAR saying about this? What's the reasoning?

GLUCK: Well, I think that NASCAR is really taking a big step here for them. I mean, you could argue it's been a long time coming, and I think a lot of us have been calling for it for years. But on Sunday, they showed their support for Black Lives Matter. They had an official kneel during the anthem - African American official. And they supported that, and they - you know, so far up till today, it was words. And you're sort of wondering, OK, is this just going to be an empty statement? And they come out and say, you know what? The Confederate flag - we've been talking about it for years, and it's done, just like that - gone. So it was - you know, I'm not sure I ever thought I would see it in my lifetime covering NASCAR, but here we are.

KELLY: Yeah. I saw that Bubba Wallace, the only black driver racing on NASCAR's top circuit - he called for this ban on the Confederate flag on Monday. Do you think it actually signals a real culture change in the sport and among fans?

GLUCK: I think in the leadership of the sport right now, you have sort of a different regime. And I - you know, they had a Pride Month tweet that they put out yesterday. I mean, it's - and you're just seeing things from NASCAR. Like, wow, is NASCAR woke all of a sudden?

(LAUGHTER)

GLUCK: You know, it's obviously - it's got a long way to go, but I think they're sending a clear message to their fan base that, look; we're going to put what's right over our profits here. And that's not something you've seen before because - they're clearly going to alienate some of their fans by doing this.

KELLY: Yeah. Yeah.

GLUCK: I mean, there's no question.

KELLY: Yeah. I mean, for those who don't regularly go to NASCAR races, maybe aren't watching it on TV, how prominent was the Confederate flag at racetracks these days?

GLUCK: So basically, it's something that you would see on RV campers in the infield. It's not like people in the stands were having it. But you'd see it. And they - five years ago, they tried to get rid of it, and they asked people to take it down. But there was no consequence. It wasn't banned. They just said, hey, please don't fly this anymore. And people flew it even more after that, so I think it was one of those things where they needed to put some teeth into their statement. And they finally did.

KELLY: Right, prompting interesting questions about how NASCAR is going to be, maybe, called to enforce this ban going forward. Jeff Gluck of The Athletic - he joined us via Skype.

Thank you, Jeff.

GLUCK: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.