This is what NASCAR.com has on this subject. I found it to be a pretty interesting read!
A reluctant foray into political writing
By Marty Smith, Turner Sports Interactive April 24, 2003
12:06 PM EDT (1606 GMT)
I'm not one to delve into the political ring of fire. It's not my job and, quite frankly, mixing sports and politics is often clich? at best. But incessant inquiries about NASCAR's involvement with Jesse Jackson have forced my hand.
Never have I seen such a heated backlash against NASCAR, so I contacted them to get their side of the story.
This will be brief. And like Joe Friday, just the facts, ma'am.
On April 2, Peter Flaherty, President of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), sent a letter to NASCAR chairman Bill France, Jr., requesting that NASCAR completely cut its ties with Jackson, whom the sanctioning body last year gave $150,000 toward the Rainbow/PUSH and Citizenship Education Fund Annual Conference in Chicago, Ill.
Flaherty then authored a report, published by the Capital Research Center, to make his request of NASCAR public. According to NASCAR, a member of the NLPC then contacted local Talladega, Ala., media to ask NASCAR about its involvement with Jackson, and the conflict of interest involved in supporting both the coalition troops in Iraq and one of the country's most vocal anti-war advocates.
The media followed suit, and on April 4, NASCAR vice president for corporate communications Jim Hunter responded by saying that the sanctioning body supports the diversity work Jackson does, but considers it unrelated to any other issue.
"We support the president. We support the coalition troops. We support what America is trying to do," Hunter said. "As far as anything else, we also support the freedoms we enjoy in this country to have varying opinions."
Days later, FOX News aired the story, saying NASCAR had no comment regarding the situation. NASCAR says this is false reporting, that they sent FOX news the same statement issued the media at Talladega on April 4.
"It is unfortunate that FOX news erred when they said NASCAR had 'no comment' regarding our support of the Rainbow PUSH National Conference," Hunter said. "NASCAR forwarded a statement to FOX news on April 8, 2003 saying the sanctioning body supports the diversity work Jackson does, but considers it unrelated to any other issue."
In short, NASCAR considers the issues completely separate in nature. They wholeheartedly support the troops. They wholeheartedly support diversity, which according to Hunter is the reasoning behind them giving Jackson so much cash.
"At that conference, leaders of American industry and leading political figures discuss initiatives that are important to minority communities," Hunter said. "They include things like civil rights, leadership, home ownership, education and health, just to name a few.
"That's what we support, but there are people out there who are trying to divert our fans' attention away from what's important here. It's not Jackson's view on this or that. We don't care. It's about diversity and our support of it."
Most fans think that's a corporate line of bull. What everyone really wants to know is this: Is NASCAR paying Jackson off to turn a blind eye to the lack of minority drivers in the sport?
Late Wednesday evening, I got their answer via an e-mailed statement from NASCAR president Mike Helton. It spells out their reasoning for contributing to Jackson's cause, and exactly how the hefty donation is being used.
"Much has been said about NASCAR's participation in Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Push Conference. We appreciate your interest in NASCAR and want to address your concerns. We know all of our fans support NASCAR's leadership position in the area of diversity because it is the right thing to do and is a means to broaden the appeal of our sport and attract the best and brightest talent in America. NASCAR does not endorse political views. NASCAR endorses DIVERSITY.
"While we have supported the Rainbow Coalition's work on diversity issues, we do not endorse many of Reverend Jackson's political views or any other political views. That being said, we feel the annual Rainbow Push National Conference in Chicago brings together many of America's corporate leaders to address and focus national attention on issues important to minority communities throughout America, including civil rights, leadership, education, health, home ownership and other key areas important to all Americans. Our participation in this conference helps us communicate our support of these important issues as well as NASCAR's and the motorsports industry's ongoing efforts to bring greater diversity to our sport.
"We take our commitment to diversity projects very seriously and have made great strides in recent years with projects like the support of the Urban Youth Racing School, our Diversity Summer Internship Program, scholarships to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions, our partnership with the NASCAR Technical Institute and most recently, the NASCAR College Tour presented by the Coca-Cola Company.
"NASCAR has taken a leadership position in promoting diversity within our organization and throughout the motorsports industry because we believe diversity is part of what makes our country great. NASCAR is truly an American sport and we want our sport to look like America. Based on this conviction, we continue to create opportunities for EVERYONE to be a part of the NASCAR community.
"We would also like to stress once again NASCAR's on-going support for America's men and women in uniform, who serve the American public through the military, whenever they're in harms way."
That's NASCAR's take, and thankfully marks the end of my brief foray into political writing.
Can we get back to racing now?
Marty Smith is NASCAR.com's senior writer. His column appears each Thursday. The opinions expressed are solely of the writer.