Jason Collins Prompts Question: Is NASCAR Ready for a Gay Driver?
With NBA veteran Jason Collins becoming the first active athlete to announce also being a homosexual, the question continues to range from when will a superstar come out to how accepting are other sports of a homosexual athlete?
NASCAR is certainly not an exception. Although no driver has vehemently come out in denial of homosexuality similar to Chris Culliver’s rant, there is a value and belief system in place in the garage area that would certainly make NASCAR the most difficult sport for an athlete to come out.
Remember, it was just a few months ago that multiple drivers denied President Barack Obama’s request to visit the White House, presumably because of political affiliation. Race teams are incredibly similar to any other team, and the garage area is very similar to a locker room.
The atmosphere at a NASCAR race is akin to nothing else in the world. Yet, the grandstands of a race are not as accepting as the environment of a garage area. Going to any race and sitting in a random section will lead to unheralded levels of diversity. In some of these sections however, words that begin with q and end in r, start with f and end in t, and even the n word are thrown around with safety and reckless abandon.
With regards to history, NASCAR has no John Amaechi, no history, no driver brave enough, even after their career is over. Certainly though there is a discussion, and it featured one of the faces of the sport.
In March 2013, Michael Myers who runs the growing webpage queers4geers.com and the popular @queers4gears Twitter account, interviewed Champion Brad Keselowski, and when asked about a gay driver in NASCAR, the champion did as he always seems to do; he spoke his mind.
Keselowski uttered “I don’t think anyone cares (if a driver is gay.) If you can win, you’ll have a ride in NASCAR. That was it, and in more than one way, it was all that needed to be said. Instantaneously, the Westboro Baptist Church responded by planning a protest on the upcoming Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Motor Speedway.
However, despite the lunatic sect’s thinking otherwise, the world has changed, and NASCAR tracks are no exception. Teams and drivers are tight knit, unified entities, and NASCAR is not exempt from accepting the national trend of diversity. Long ago, the same conversation was being had in our sport with regards to the color barrier in NASCAR, long after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. Wendell Scott was our Jackie Robinson, and he was able to do what he did because he was successful.
Janet Guthrie broke the barrier for women in NASCAR. Her determination is currently fueling a generation of young female drivers, in the same way that Wendell Scott fuels such future superstars as Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Darrell Wallace Jr.
For NASCAR and its fans, the homosexual movement needs to continue its growth, and it needs a face as much as any other sport. Jason Collins is a pioneer in his own right. NASCAR needs that.
Anybody, regardless of creed, race, or gender, will have an opportunity. That is true of this great nation we live in. Why should fans expect it to be any different for one if its most popular sports?
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486