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NASCAR exec rips 'jackass' flying Confederate flag at track

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Washington (AFP)

NASCAR executive Steve O'Donnell can't stop the Confederate flag from flying around the stock car racing circuit's venues, but he made it clear what he thought of the emblem on Sunday.

NASCAR banned the display of the Confederate flag at its events earlier this month, saying the presence of the flag "runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment" for fans and competitors.

The Confederate flag has been a staple at NASCAR tracks, particularly in the sport's southern US heartland, but it remains a symbol of slavery and racism for many.

Before heavy weather moved in to force a 24-hour postponement of the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, a small plane flew above the track trailing a giant Confederate flag and a second banner that read "Defund NASCAR" -- its message widely spread on social media.

O'Donnell, NASCAR'S executive vice president and chief racing development officer, seemed less than impressed in his own Twitter comments, posting a picture of black and white hands clasped on his feed.

"You won't see a photo of a jackass flying a flag over the track here," O'Donnell wrote. "but you will see this... Hope EVERYONE enjoys the race today."

NASCAR's decision to ban the flag follows weeks of nationwide protests against racism and police brutality after the death of unarmed black man George Floyd while the custody of Minneapolis police.

Sports leagues across the country are grappling with how best to tackle racism in their ranks and how to use their platforms to promote diversity.

This week, NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin's car featured not his usual FedEx sponsor logos but those of the National Civil Rights Museum.

The museum, which chronicles the history of civil rights in the United States, is located in Memphis, Tennessee, where FedEx is headquartered.

"Today you will see my #11 car will not carry the traditional paint scheme that you usually see," Hamlin said on Twitter. "FedEx and myself instead want to give that voice to the NCRM.

"I want to thank them personally for taking the time to educate me on so many topics."

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