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NASCAR bans Confederate flags at its events

The ban comes just two days after the only black driver in the league's top series called on NASCAR to make the change.
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NASCAR announced on Wednesday it would ban Confederate flags from its events, two days after the only black driver in the racing association's top series called for the change.

The flag will no longer be allowed at races or displayed at any NASCAR properties, the league said in a statement posted to its Twitter account.

"The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors, and our industry," the statement said.

NASCAR driver Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr., who said in a CNN interview on Monday that the flags should be banned at races, applauded the change.

"A lot of kudos to NASCAR," Wallace said on NBC's "TODAY" on Thursday.

The Confederate flags at races made many people uncomfortable, said Wallace, who is the first black driver in 50 years to win one of NASCAR’s top three national touring series.

"We shouldn't have anybody feeling uncomfortable," he said. "Inclusion is what we’re trying to accomplish here, unity."

Wallace said that while some people say the Confederate flag is about heritage, "to a lot of people it's a sign of hate."

He also said that the NASCAR race on Wednesday night, following the announcement about the ban, drew new viewers, including New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who tweeted a picture of a TV screen showing Wallace's car emblazoned with the words "Black Lives Matter."

The league had announced Tuesday that Wallace would drive with a special paint scheme honoring Black Lives Matter during the race Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway.

Wallace, who has been an outspoken voice in the sport since George Floyd's deadly arrest in Minneapolis on May 25 sparked protests around the world, told CNN that in the past, he had not been bothered by the flag. But he said that after educating himself he saw how uncomfortable it makes people.

"There's going to be a lot of angry people that carry those flags proudly, but it's time for change," he said. "We have to change that."

Wallace appeared in a video with other drivers that was broadcast on Sunday in which they vowed to "listen and learn" from the protests that have rocked the nation and to "no longer be silent." The drivers, including seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and retired star Dale Earnhardt Jr., pledged to work together to make "real change."

And while many applauded NASCAR's decision on Wednesday, some fans replied to the organization's tweet with disdain. One user vowed to still bring a flag to every race.

"This is the final straw. I’ve been watching NASCAR since the 70s," another Twitter user wrote. "I used to go races proudly with my pops. All lives matter. Stay out of politics. You lost a fan."

NASCAR began asking fans to stop bringing Confederate flags to races in 2015 after Dylann Roof killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. After the massacre, photos circulated online of Roof posing with the flag.

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In recent weeks, a number of protesters have demanded cities and other institutions remove symbols of the Confederacy.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has stood in the heart of Richmond since 1890 would be brought down in the coming weeks. The state is home to 110 Confederate monuments, 13 of which are in Richmond, according to 2019 data from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

President Donald Trump held a contrary position Wednesday, when he tweeted that he "will not even consider" renaming military bases that hold titles of former Confederate leaders.

“Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!” Trump said, calling the bases “part of a Great American Heritage.”