Bubba Wallace has helped push the NASCAR world to make some significant acknowledgements and changes over the last two weeks. And he realizes that his life at the race track will change again when fans are once again allowed to attend races.
Wallace, NASCAR’s only black driver who races full-time in its top three series, said Friday that he’ll have to be more careful when he ventures out into the infield at races to see fans. NASCAR banned fans from flying the Confederate flag on Wednesday, five years after it had made a futile request for fans to refrain from flying the flag.
Wallace said Thursday that discussions about banning the flag had been going on for over a week and the announcement happened two days after he said on CNN that the flag should be prohibited.
“I know that’s going to change now,” Wallace said of his previous habits of impromptu infield visits with fans on race weekends. “I gotta be careful what I do and that’s kind of the sad world we live in. My dad texted me. He was proud of what I was doing on and off the racetrack but he was worried about my safety, going out in public and whatnot. Just crazy that you have to think about that side of things. Definitely have to watch your back now and can’t be that outspoken guy, that happy go-lucky guy who would just take a trip out on the golf cart or my longboard down into the infield or whatever and have a good time.”
NASCAR’s decision to ban the flag was met with a lot of vociferous pushback on social media from some purported longtime fans, but it was also cheered by prominent athletes and figures outside of auto racing. NASCAR’s announcement has been one of the biggest news stories of the past week.
Wallace: Hasn’t thought much about kneeling
Wallace was also asked if he had considered kneeling in protest during the national anthem at an upcoming race. Wallace has stood for the past two pre-race anthems while wearing a shirt that said “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” in honor of George Floyd and the racial injustice protests across the nation.He also drove a Black Lives Matter car at Martinsville on Wednesday where he finished 11th.
He said he hadn’t put much thought into kneeling.
“I think the messages that I have been putting out there on the race tracks during the anthem is speaking for itself, so I haven’t put much forethought into that,” Wallace said. “I loved that the [NASCAR] official, Kirk Price, took that initiative and stood for what he believed in, kneeled for what he believed in. A man that served our nation in the military kneeled. So I thought that was pretty powerful.”
Price took a knee before Sunday’s race at Atlanta. It was the first race held after NASCAR’s quiet repeal of a rule that required people to stand at attention during the anthem. Wallace has previously said that if he had seen Price kneeling he would have joined him.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.