Sons of Confederate Veterans Might Have More Flag Flyovers at NASCAR Races

NASCAR this month banned Confederate flags from being flown or displayed at any of its events or properties. Despite its efforts, folks have gotten creative on keeping the stars and bars visible at the race venues.

At last Sunday's Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, vehicles prominently displayed the Confederate flag and some vendors sold merchandise with it at their tents—all of which were outside the racetrack entrance. Then there was a small airplane that flew over the track prior to the race. The plane towed behind it one banner that had the Confederate flag, and another banner that had the message "Defund NASCAR."

The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) based in Columbia, Tennessee, has taken responsibility for the flag flyover. The group's leader, Commander-in-Chief Paul C. Gramling Jr., said NASCAR's banning of the flag was "un-American," and that it trampled on "First Amendment rights of free expression" for Southerners.

"NASCAR's banning the display of the Confederate battle flag by its fans is nothing less than trampling upon Southerners' First Amendment Right of free expression," Gramling said in the Columbia Daily Herald.

"This un-American act shall not go unchallenged. [On Sunday], members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Confederate Air Force displayed its disapproval of NASCAR's trampling upon the First Amendment Rights of Southerners," Gramling continued. "During and before the start of the NASCAR race in Talladega, Alabama, race, our plane flew a banner announcing a drive to 'Defund NASCAR.'

"It is the hope of the Sons of Confederate Veterans that NASCAR fans will be allowed the fundamental American right of displaying pride in their family and heritage. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is proud of the diversity of the Confederate military and our modern Southland. We believe NASCAR's slandering of our Southern heritage only further divides our nation. The Sons of Confederate Veterans will continue to defend not only our right but the Right of all Americans to celebrate their heritage. We trust NASCAR will do the same."

NASCAR Confederate Flag
A banner incorporating the Confederate flag trails a small plane prior to a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race May 12, 2007 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. The banner was a protest organized by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. SCV flew a similar banner with the words "Defund NASCAR" at the June 21, 2020 race at Talladega Superspeedway. Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

There were signs outside the entrances of the Talladega track that stated the Confederate flag was prohibited, and NASCAR officials pretended to ignore the flyover.

Gramling said private donors from his group helped pay for the plane and banners that soared above the speedway, and he said the SCV doesn't care what NASCAR thought of their stunt.

"What NASCAR did was a slap in the face to fans who made the sport what it is," Gramling said. "They don't know how upset they've made people with this decision. I really don't care what NASCAR thinks about what we did. It's the least of my concerns."

Gramling said everyone liked their flyover—except NASCAR. It went over so well, in fact, that there could be more of these Confederate flyovers.

"We've had quite a bit of reaction," Gramling said. "It's been very well received by everyone except NASCAR. This is the hottest, quickest thing we've done to raise awareness of flag issues and to get a strong reaction in quite a while."

The SCV was first organized in Richmond, Virginia, in 1896, which was 31 years after the end of the U.S. Civil War. The SCV states on its website that part of its mission is "preserving the history and legacy of these heroes so that future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause."