DOVER, Del. — Two NASCAR team owners who said they would fire employees who do not stand for the national anthem do not speak for the sport, star driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Friday.
Several owners and executives said last weekend they wouldn’t want anyone in their organizations to protest as NFL players have done to indicate their concern with social injustices, particularly against African-Americans. Richard Childress, who was Dale Earnhardt’s longtime team owner, said of protesting: "It’ll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus." Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty said anyone that refused to stand for the anthem "ought to be out of the country."
Earnhardt, NASCAR’s most popular driver who will retire at the end of the season, tweeted Monday in support of peaceful protest . Earnhardt said he hasn’t discussed the issue with his teammates, crew or other employees at Hendrick Motorsports. He said he will continue to stand for the anthem.
"But I’m not quick to rush to judgment on somebody who wants to do something different," Earnhardt said Friday.
Earnhardt said on weekly podcast he had grown weary of the "same tired stigma that we’ve dealt with for many, many years."
"I think the whole sports respects Richard Petty and Richard Childress for what they’ve accomplished and what they’ve done, but they speak for themselves," Earnhardt said at Dover International Speedway. "They don’t speak for the entire sport, I believe. I think that everybody would handle those situations differently."
Austin Dillon, Childress’ grandson, said it was an honour to stand for the anthem.
"I enjoy that part of my weekend so I can give a little bit back to those who have given their lives to allow me to go race," he said.
President Donald Trump lauded NASCAR on Monday because no one protested during the national anthem before last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motorspeedway.
"So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag – they said it loud and clear!" Trump tweeted Monday.
NASCAR, which is in the midst of its playoffs, was a punchline this week on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert " and "Late Night With Seth Meyers ."
Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, who was not invited to the White House to honour his 2016 championship, said this week he supported peaceful protest. Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion, expressed his views in a series of tweets , writing: "Please don’t believe that when we stand it’s out of disrespect to civil rights; it is and always will be out of respect and love for our flag."
Danica Patrick was among a handful of drivers asked about the issue at Dover and said she would continue to stand for the anthem.
"You have to figure out what’s more important to you," she said. "If you think something should be done differently and you might sacrifice your job, that’s your choice. Otherwise, it’s your choice the other way, too. There’s plenty of platforms to speak your mind. If it comes in interference with putting food on the table or being able to do something that you love, I think that you should probably go by the rules."