Bubba Wallace is now embracing his platform as a NASCAR driver for positive change and is pushing his fellow competitors to do the same.
Wallace, the only full-time black driver in any of NASCAR’s top three series, detailed his decision this week to speak out as protests continue in the wake of George Floyd’s killing on May 25 in Minneapolis. Wallace said that he’s been encouraging others in NASCAR to speak their minds after he realized that he needed to speak out more himself.
Wallace appeared on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s podcast this week and had an in-depth discussion with Junior about racial issues and injustice. He said the realization that he needed to speak out more came after he saw the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing in Georgia. As protests enveloped the nation over the last week, Wallace texted other drivers and people who worked and asked them to use their voices too.
“I said a few drivers — a very few — have given their opinion on the day’s matter and I appreciate that. But the silence from the top drivers in our sport is beyond frustrating. All of our drivers — our sport has always had somewhat of a racist label to it. NASCAR, everybody thinks redneck, Confederate flag, racists. And I hate it. I hate that because I know NASCAR is so much more. I said do you all not care about what’s going on in the world? That’s not the right way to go about it. Our voices carry so much more weight than Joe Schmo from down the street. I mentioned we’ve got to do better, we’ve got to step up for everybody to say what they feel.
“At the end of the day this is way more important than any race win, any championship that you’d ever accomplish. This is something that can change on a global impact. So imagine that. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who went out and won a championship in a horrible year but never made a comment on the issues that we are dealing with in our society. And maybe being the only guy. I wouldn’t want to carry that burden.”
Drivers like Austin and Ty Dillon, Tyler Reddick, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have spoken out in recent days in addition to Wallace and Earnhardt Jr., who again played the role of being the conscience of NASCAR.
Seems some in my timeline are confused or curious. So let me be clear.
Black Lives Matter. They are hurting and upset and it’s time for me to listen.
Riots, violence, and looting is bad and needs to stop.
We all better get this shit figured out and fix it.
Love and Respect.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr)
June 2, 2020
It hurts to see our country being torn apart by racism & hate. I can’t pretend to understand what black men & women have experienced but I can speak out & condemn racial inequality. I hope love for all mankind can prevail & make changes to build a better future for our children pic.twitter.com/ciLHHAhlDn
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson)
June 1, 2020
Wallace pushed Chase Elliott to speak out
Wallace told both Earnhardt Jr. and NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico that he had been having personal conversations with drivers about how they could speak up and make an impact. One of those drivers is Chase Elliott, the reigning most popular driver in the series.
Wallace said good friend was struggling with what he could say that would make an impact. Wallace framed it to him this way.
“He was like, I know it’s tough to comment on and I’ve been trying to come up with something,” Wallace said on the podcast. He said what’s really going to change? I said Chase I don’t know but think about this. Imagine a follower, two followers that you have in however many followers you got. One is a person that is going to go hate somebody, go kill somebody today. And the other one is somebody that is getting discriminated against.
“Imagine you saying something and both of those people look at that and they’re like, ‘Wow, that changed who I am today. I’m not going to hate on anybody anymore. I’m not going to allow to be discriminated against. I’m going to stand up for what’s right.’ Imagine your words changing somebody else’s life. Being silent on that, they could have just been ‘I was waiting for somebody to tell me something.’
“We have that platform to tell something and that voice to tell people we have got to stop and change our ways. That’s just how I think about it.”
Elliott joined other NASCAR drivers in participating in the Blackout Tuesday social media push on Instagram.
‘Excited’ to embrace the role as a leader
Wallace was one of the few people who spoke out in the days after Kyle Larson said the N-word during a virtual race on April 12. The racial slur cost Larson his ride at Chip Ganassi Racing after his sponsors disassociated themselves with him.
Wallace told Tirico Wednesday that he was “excited” to push forward and lead other drivers speaking out and said he understood why drivers would be hesitant to voice their opinions for change.
“It’s tough. I get it,” Wallace said. “We’re a lot of white guys that drive in circles — drive in ovals — for a living and don’t have these issues. They don’t go through it. And so I can understand if it’s tough for them to speak on a matter that doesn’t directly involve you. But I feel like it’s got to indirect you impact enough to stand up for our community, for our sport, for our fans that don’t have it so easy, that go through discrimination each and every day — to lend their voices.”
Written by Nick Bromberg for Yahoo Sports