AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) – NASCAR denounced the association with the political slogan “Let’s go, Brandon” used across the country as an insult to President Joe Biden. NASCAR president Steve Phelps said Friday that the top motorsport series in the United States does not want to be associated with “left or right” politics.
Phelps also said NASCAR will take action against any illegal use of its trademarks on merchandise bearing the slogan. Retired baseball star Lenny Dykstra posted a photo to Twitter this week of a man having breakfast at a New Jersey hotel wearing a black “Let’s go, Brandon” shirt next to NASCAR’s trademark color bars.
“We’ll chase the one (who uses logos) and get those things,” Phelps said. “That’s not okay. It’s not OK for you to illegally use our trademarks, regardless of whether we agree with the position.”
Brandon Brown won his first NASCAR career in Alabama in October, and the Talladega Superspeedway crowd at the Xfinity Series race chanted “F—Joe Biden” during Brown’s interview. It was not clear whether NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast, who was wearing a headset, could hear what the crowd was saying during the interview, and she mistakenly told Brown that the fans were cheering “Let’s go, Brandon.”
The phrase has become a rallying cry for Biden’s critics, and “Let’s go, Brandon” is now conservative code for the original vulgar chant.
“It’s an unfortunate situation and I feel for Brandon, I feel for Kelli,” said Phelps. “I think unfortunately it speaks about the state we are in as a country. We don’t want to associate ourselves with politics, left or right.”
That’s a turning point in NASCAR’s long history of allowing political candidates to use its races as campaign stops. President Donald Trump was the starter of honor at the 2020 Daytona 500, and the sold-out February crowd made NASCAR’s Super Bowl feel like a campaign rally until his plane flew over the Florida speedway on his command to start the engines.
Drivers and their families posed for selfies with Trump ahead of the race, and in early 2016, reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott was among a handful of drivers attending a rally in Georgia with then-NASCAR chairman Brian France in support of Trump. Several members of the group, including NASCAR’s most popular driver, spoke on the podium.
NASCAR also took aggressive stances on social justice issues in 2020 during a nationwide racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd. NASCAR banned the display of the Confederate flag at its events at the request of Bubba Wallace, the only black full-time driver. Wallace wore an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt on pit road and ran in one race with a Black Lives Matter livery.
Phelps said NASCAR respects the presidential office.
“Do you like that it started with NASCAR and then gained ground? No, we’re not happy about that,” Phelps said.
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