Confederate Flag Flies Over NASCAR All-Star Race in Defiance of Ban

NASCAR may have banned the Confederate flag from its race tracks last month, but that hasn't stopped the symbol from appearing at circuits around the U.S.

In the latest incident, a Confederate flag was flown above the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee on Wednesday night ahead of the NASCAR All-Star Race. A small plane towing the flag appeared over the track before the race, flying above the venue before disappearing into the distance.

Attached to the flag was a banner reading, which refers to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. According to its website, the organization is "preserving the history and legacy" of Confederate soldiers "so that future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause" and its headquarters are in Columbia, Tennessee, some 330 miles west of Bristol.

Last month, SCV claimed responsibility for a similar stunt at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama, when a plane flying the Confederate flag and a banner reading "Defund NASCAR" flew above the track.

The incident came just two weeks after NASCAR had moved to prohibit fans from displaying the flag at its racetracks, joining the various leagues that have been forced to re-examine their relationship with Confederate symbols in the wake of widespread protests against racism that erupted across the U.S. following George Floyd's death at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.

NASCAR had banned "the use of the Confederate flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity" five years ago, but significantly upped the ante last month.

NASCAR, Confederate flag
A Confederate Flag paid for by the Sons of Confederate Veterans is flown over the Bristol Motor Speedway prior to the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on July 15 in Bristol, Tennessee. Patrick Smith/Getty

"The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry," it said in a statement.

"Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties."

During the same weekend in Talladega, NASCAR found itself dealing with a far more serious incident than a Confederate flag being flown above the track as a noose was found in the garage of Bubba Wallace, NASCAR's only black driver and a vocal supporter of the decision to remove the Confederate symbol.

Following an investigation, the FBI concluded that a pull rope shaped like an old-fashioned noose had been in the garage since early October, before the garage was assigned to Wallace.

"The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall," NASCAR said in its statement.

Last week, President Donald Trump suggested the incident in Talladega was a "hoax" and called for Wallace to apologize to NASCAR and his fellow drivers.

"Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him only to find out the whole thing was just another HOAX?", the president tweeted on July 6.

The tweet drew backlash as Wallace hadn't even seen the noose, which was spotted by a team member, who subsequently reported it to race organizers.

The White House, however, doubled down on Trump's stance.

"What he was pointing out was this rush to judgment to immediately say there was a hate crime," Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters shortly after Trump's tweet had sparked controversy. "The FBI concluded that this was not a hate crime, and he believes it would go a long way if Bubba came out and acknowledged this as well."

On Wednesday night, as was the case in Talladega, NASCAR allowed fans in the stands, a change from holding races behind closed doors that has become the norm because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

There were no signs of Confederate flags in the crowd, but the flag was displayed along with a "Donald Trump 2020" campaign flag at a vendor's stall outside the track.

Newsweek has contacted NASCAR for comment.

Donald Trump, NASCAR
A vendor displays a confederate and Trump 2020 "Make America Great Again!" flag outside of the Bristol Motor Speedway prior to the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on July 15 in Bristol, Tennessee. Patrick Smith/Getty