On a day when virtually every NFL game was marred by national anthem player protests in response to President Donald Trump’s remarks about his disdain for the practice, there were no protests at the ISM Connect 300 NASCAR race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., on Sunday.
It seems NASCAR owners and figureheads were responsible for that.
Team owner Richard Childress said Sunday when asked what he would do if one of his employees protested during the anthem, “Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over. I told them anyone who works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.”
Team owner Richard Petty reiterated Childress’s comments, saying, “Anybody that don’t stand up for that ought to be out of the country. Period. If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”
Another team owner Joe Gibbs, a Pro Football Hall of Famer for his time as coach of the Washington Redskins, said, “So much has been sacrificed for our country and our flag. It’s a big deal for us to honor America.”
After Kyle Busch, a member of Gibbs’ team, won the Sunday race New Hampshire, Gibbs said, “I’m proud of the way we’ve represented ourselves, and I’m proud of this sport, too. I think this sport has a certain way they look at things. I really appreciate that.”
Andy Murstein, the majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, told ESPN Sunday that while he disagrees with the recent spate of athletes taking a knee, he wouldn’t fire them over it.
“I would sit down with them and say it’s the wrong thing to do that (take a knee), and many people, including myself, view it as an affront to our great country,” Murstein told ESPN. “If there is disenchantment toward the president or a few bad law enforcement officers, don’t have it cross over to all that is still good and right about our country.
“They are all proud Americans who have lived through world wars and turbulent times. While I respect their thoughts — and personally I think it’s the wrong thing to kneel — I wouldn’t fire someone for expressing their feelings.”
On Monday morning, driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. used a John F. Kennedy quote in support for the protesters, tweeting “All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable-JFK.”
However, an official with Team Penske told USA Today that “it’s an issue we’ve never faced and don’t anticipate facing,” and his team had no specific policy on anthem protests.
Trump praised fans of NASCAR racing on Monday morning after Sunday’s protests on NFL football fields across the country. Trump also urged NFL fans to consider boycotting games.
“Many people booed the players who kneeled yesterday (which was a small percentage of total). These are fans who demand respect for our Flag!” Trump wrote, adding in a separate tweet, that he is “so proud” of NASCAR. “They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag — they said it loud and clear!”
Reuters News Service contributed to this report.