August 4, 2020

Mississippi NASCAR drivers drop state flag over Confederate symbol

Two NASCAR drivers with Mississippi roots have removed the controversial Mississippi state flag from their cars and apparel.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., dropped the flag from the driver’s suit and belt buckle, several automotive publications reported, after realizing how the flag — which contains a Confederate symbol – could be offensive to some fans.

Reportedly Stenhouse made the move after talking about the issue with fellow driver, Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only black driver.

“I’ve always been proud to be from Mississippi and I’ve always supported or wore the flag on my belt for a long time,” Stenhouse said as reported in Autoweek. “I’ve never really thought of it offending anybody, but obviously with everything that’s going on in the country (with) the rebel flag and learning really how it offends so many people, I don’t intend to do that.”

Another NASCAR driver, Tommy Joe Martins removed the Mississippi flag from his car and put in its place the popular Hospitality Flag, previously known as the Stennis flag.

“In my first couple of years racing NASCAR, I had the Mississippi flag on my car, next to my name all the time,” Martins wrote on social media. “Then, (back in 2015) when NASCAR began to discourage the use of the Confederate flag, an official had peeled the flag off the car. I asked the official why, and he said, ‘Because it has the Confederate flag on it.'”

Martins told Mississippi Today that moment was a turning point for him on the issue.

“It was my aha moment,” Martins said to Mississippi Today. “I was embarrassed, to tell you the truth. It hit me that people didn’t see that flag and say, ‘Well, he’s from Mississippi.’ What they saw was the Confederate flag and all it has come to represent. I thought that whatever people assume that means about me, it definitely does not mean that. It’s time for me to distance myself away from that. I don’t want that perception of myself out there. It’s time for us to fly a flag that better represents all of us.”