NASCAR marked the start of Pride Month on Wednesday by admitting that its “recent actions” had not been in line with the sanctioning body’s public efforts for better diversity and inclusion.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) waved the green flag ahead of the May 22 All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway. In February, Abbott called for state agencies to investigate gender-affirming treatments on transgender teenagers. Abbott’s calls for investigations came after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said that gender-affirming treatments for minors could be considered “child abuse.”
NASCAR did not directly address Abbott’s presence at the race in its tweet celebrating the start of Pride Month. But it wasn’t hard to see how the tweet could be referring to Abbott’s role in pre-race ceremonies, especially as a reporter for the Associated Press tweeted that Abbott's presence at the track had been acknowledged as a mistake.
As we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, we acknowledge that recent actions have not aligned with NASCAR’s mission to be a welcoming sport for all.
We remain steadfast in our commitment to create a more inclusive environment -- in our workplaces, at the race track & in the stands. pic.twitter.com/r0h232xaXd
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 1, 2022
The sanctioning body has made public efforts to broaden its reach among fans and participants since the social justice protests in the summer of 2020. NASCAR admitted in the wake of George Floyd’s death that it could have done more to stop systemic racial injustice.
Abbott’s presence in the pre-race ceremonies was also against a pledge that NASCAR president Steve Phelps made in February. When Phelps was asked about a now-defunct political cryptocurrency that attempted to sponsor a lower-series car earlier this season, Phelps said that NASCAR did not want to “associate ourselves with politics, the left or the right.”
The pledge to be apolitical came after NASCAR has been friendly grounds for Republican politicians for decades. Former President Donald Trump spoke ahead of the 2020 Daytona 500 and his presidential limousine led the field on the pace laps before the green flag.
But that was months before the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests after Floyd's death. NASCAR addressed Pride Month for the first time on its Twitter account in June of 2020 and has formed partnerships with LGBTQ groups You Can Play and the Trevor Project in the last two years.