Saturday, July 21, 2018
Sports

NASCAR revs up the silence on N.C. 'bathroom law'

Pat McCrory likes to spin a tale meant to illustrate his love for high octane and burned rubber.

It was 30 years ago, when the future governor of North Carolina was a 19-year-old who drove a '72 Fiat. McCrory says he saw the back gate had been left open at Charlotte Motor Speedway, so he slipped in and watched David Pearson win the World 600.

McCrory draws hearty guffaws when he tells that story during appearances on behalf of NASCAR. He talks about how during his days as mayor of Charlotte, he used NASCAR to help recruit talent to the city, "especially mechanics, electricians, the aerospace engineers, the metallurgy specialists," McCrory said last October.

McCrory also lauded an economic impact study that the speedway said shows a $450 million contribution from the track to the Charlotte-area economy.

It's fair to say that McCrory loves NASCAR and NASCAR loves the governor.

That's now a risky alignment as McCrory has doubled-down on North Carolina's so-called "bathroom law" requiring transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. The governor and the Justice Department sued each other Monday, with the feds saying the law amounts to "state-sponsored discrimination" and McCrory accusing the Obama administration of rewriting civil-rights law to protect transgender people's access to bathrooms everywhere.

The law has been criticized by gay rights groups and led Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam to cancel concerts in North Carolina. PayPal reversed plans to open a 400-employee facility in Charlotte, and Deutsche Bank froze expansion plans near Raleigh. Nearly 200 corporate leaders from across the country, including Charlotte-based Bank of America, have called for the law to be repealed.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last month that the All-Star Game won't be played in Charlotte next February if the law does not change. He also said he sees no reason to move the game now because he'd prefer to first try to work with state officials.

That's sort of the same stance taken by NASCAR, which waited well over a month to weigh in on the topic at all. NASCAR has offices in downtown Charlotte, its research and development center is located near Charlotte Motor Speedway, and most race teams are based in North Carolina. Yet NASCAR Chairman Brian France has been standoffish regarding the law, choosing to stay out of the fray with a soft stance of having behind-the-scenes discussions.

As always, the debate rages over the mingling of sports and politics. Since sports are supposed to be entertainment and a distraction from real life, many fans prefer their teams and players stay out of the fray.

But NASCAR doesn't get that pass because the series has so openly blurred the lines. In one calendar year alone, France said the Confederate flag is not welcome at NASCAR race tracks, he endorsed Donald Trump for president and the pre-race invocation at Texas Motor Speedway was used to pray for a "Jesus Man" to win the White House.

NASCAR is so deep into this political cycle that there's no climbing out of it any time soon.

So what does NASCAR plan to do about a law that McCrory said Monday is not a North Carolina issue but a national issue?

Well, NASCAR could move the All-Star Race scheduled for May 21 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It would be a dramatic decision, one that would place a significant burden on fans who have already paid for travel arrangements, and a blow to Speedway Motorsports, the owners of the speedway.

It won't happen and NASCAR is just as unlikely to move the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend. But even starting that conversation could get McCrory's attention.

Unless, of course, NASCAR is okay with the law as it is currently written. If that's the case, then silence and inaction probably is the best policy. After all, the governor is a NASCAR fan.

— Associated Press

Comments
Rays journal: Replacement catcher Adam Moore ready to play

Rays journal: Replacement catcher Adam Moore ready to play

ST. PETERSBURG — The newest Rays player is also nearly the oldest.With All-Star C Wilson Ramos on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, Tampa Bay turned to veteran Adam Moore, 34, as the new backup catcher behind Jesus Sucre. Only reliever...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Martin Fennelly: Rays and Marlins at different stages of same mission

Martin Fennelly: Rays and Marlins at different stages of same mission

ST. PETERSBURG — New York Yankees god and former Tampa resident Derek Jeter, who was once going to save the Rays (or so we thought), was at Tropicana Field on Friday night. The Captain had the gall to show up as Miami Marlins chief executive of...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Dolphins owner: Actually, we haven’t decided whether to levy anthem penalties

Dolphins owner: Actually, we haven’t decided whether to levy anthem penalties

Times wiresThe NFL can't seem to get away from the divisive national anthem issue.The latest developments this week assure that, despite the league's wishes, the debate about how to handle players who kneel during the anthem to protest police violenc...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Late rally falls short as Rays lose to Marlins, 6-5

Late rally falls short as Rays lose to Marlins, 6-5

ST. PETERSBURG –The Rays rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth Friday night, but their rally came up short as the Marlins held on for a 6-5 win at Tropicana Field.Tampa Bay's bullpen gave up five runs in the seventh, and that was too...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Saturday, July 21

TODAYAction sportsX Games1 p.m.ABCXGames7 p.m.ESPNArena FootballWashington at Albany7:30 p.m.CBSSNAutosF1: German Grand Prix qualifying8:55 a.m.ESPN2Xfinity: Lakes Region 200 qualifying11 a.m.CNBCXfinity: Lakes Region 2004 p.m.NBCSNNHRA: Mile High Na...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Kiermaier has ‘severe bone bruise’ in foot, dates back to April injury

Kiermaier has ‘severe bone bruise’ in foot, dates back to April injury

Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier left Friday's game in the fifth inning when an injury to his right foot that has bothered him since April flared up with the worst pain he's encountered this season.Kiermaier called the injury a "severe bone bruise" an...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Greg Auman’s takeaways from Friday’s Rays-Marlins game

Greg Auman’s takeaways from Friday’s Rays-Marlins game

Nathan Eovaldi bounced back nicely following an eight-out, eight-run outing last week vs. the Twins. He lasted six innings, gave up one run and struck out eight. Take away the Twins game and Eovaldi has allowed three earned runs in his past four star...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier leaves game with foot discomfort

Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier leaves game with foot discomfort

Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who missed two months earlier this season with a thumb injury, left Friday night's game against the Marlins with what the team described as "right foot discomfort."It wasn't immediately clear when the injury occurred,...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs, Jensen reach out to fans as training camp approaches

Bucs, Jensen reach out to fans as training camp approaches

SARASOTA — The backdrop at University Park Country Club had a larger-than-life image of Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy with one of the team's slogans for 2018: "JOIN THE KREWE."New Bucs center Ryan Jensen was on hand for a luncheon hosted b...
Updated: 8 hours ago
For starters: Rays open second half at home vs. Marlins

For starters: Rays open second half at home vs. Marlins

Greetings from Tropicana Field, where the Rays come out of the All-Star break with a three-game series against the Marlins. Here's the lineup for Tampa Bay, which dropped two of three to the Marlins in Miami:Kiermaier CFHechavarria SSBauers 1BRoberts...
Updated: 8 hours ago