In a fairly lengthy letter sent to NASCAR chairman and chief executive officer Brian France, Senator Chris Murphy begs NASCAR to reconsider their agreement with the National Rifle Association due to the fact the NRA is strongly opposing the gun control actions proposed by a group of democratic politicians led, of course, by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Senator Murphy insists that NASCAR is putting themselves in the middle of the ongoing gun control debate and in allowing the NRA to sponsor a race – NASCAR is chosen to side with those who oppose gun control. Senator Murphy does a fine job of proposing his case, pointing out statistics that support his cause while repeatedly returning to the fact that NASCAR is joining the gun control debate by doing business with the NRA. Senator Murphy also recalls the awful shooting that took place in Newtown Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his pleas for NASCAR to drop the NRA sponsorship of the NRA 500.
Below is an excerpt from Murphy’s letter to France:
But by giving the NRA sponsorship of a major NASCAR race, NASCAR has crossed a line – you have decided to put yourself in the middle of a political debate, and you have taken a side that stands in opposition to the wishes of so many Newtown families who support common sense gun reform. Whether or not this was your intention, your fans will infer from this sponsorship that NASCAR and the NRA are allies in the current legislative debate over gun violence. By announcing this new partnership at the very height of Congress’s deliberations over gun reform, NASCAR has inserted itself into a political debate that has nothing to with the business of NASCAR. To me, this seems an unwise break with precedent.
NASCAR and boss Brian France have not yet offered a reply to Senator Murphy’s request but Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage told The Associated Press that is the sponsorship deal with the NRA is about sports marketing and not politics. For those unsure, NASCAR doesn’t actually pick the sponsors for the race as that is left up to the management of the facility where each race is being run. For the NRA 500, Texas Motor Speedway management would have been the people handling the sponsorship of the race – although NASCAR does have the option to overrule the track management and reject a sponsor.
It would seem that NASCAR is in one of those “damned if you do – damned if you don’t” situations with Senator Murphy’s request. In the eyes of those who are in favor of stricter gun laws in the United States, if NASCAR allows the NRA to sponsor the NRA 500, they will be supporting the’ “pro gun” side of the argument. However, if NASCAR should reject the NRA sponsorship, those who are opposed to new gun control laws may believe that the massive racing association is siding with those who are in favor of gun control.
In the long run, NASCAR is a business and they have to make decisions that are best for their business. While I most certainly expect that there are some NASCAR fans who are in favor of increased gun control laws, my experience with the NASCAR crowd leads me to believe that the majority of the group would lean towards the National Rifle Association’s side of the argument. When you add to that the fact that the NRA 500 is being held in pro-gun Texas – it could create far more negative controversy from the fans if NASCAR rejects the NRA.
NASCAR racing is becoming less and less popular with the younger race fan so the huge governing body needs to do whatever they can to keep current fans interested. The odds are good that there would be more impact on NASCAR in dropping the NRA from their fans than there would be negative outcry from the public (many of which don’t care about NASCAR anyway). Also, while the typical NASCAR fan has changed a great deal from the good ol’ days – there is still a high number of rootin’ tootin’ self proclaimed rednecks who love beer, guns and NASCAR. We should probably keep in mind that the multimillion dollar racing league began as a bunch of moonshiners racing to see who had the fastest car…cars that were used to elude police officers while transporting illegal alcohol during prohibition. Many anti-gun control individuals are quick to compare the government’s gun control laws to prohibition so there NASCAR could anger those fans who oppose government control of any kind. Making a move that would lead some to believe that NASCAR is siding with the “liberals trying to take their guns away” could be a big turn off to some of the sport’s most loyal fans…and that is a bad business decision. There could also be backlash to face from the local Texans if NASCAR boots the NRA from the title sponsor of the upcoming race.
So what does NASCAR do? Do they side with Senator Chris Murphy and the anti-gun masses – many of which may not even watch the sport or do they side with the NRA, keeping in mind the fact that there are likely a great many proud gun owners who would rather die than have the feds take away their guns? With the NRA 500 scheduled for April 13th, NASCAR doesn’t have long to make a decision.