For Release: July 9, 2003
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106
Black Network Suggests Apology from Rainbow Coalition After Official Calls NASCAR Fans "Cracker" and "Redneck" Monitor of Racial Sensitivity Freely Uses Insensitive Language
Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are calling upon the Rainbow/PUSH organization to apologize for derogatory comments about fans of NASCAR auto racing made by Rainbow Sports director Charles Farrell.
In a recent interview with CNSNews.com, Farrell said, "there is a perception that stock car racing is a good ole' boy's Southern redneck cracker sport."
"Webster's definition of 'cracker' and 'redneck' point out that these words are meant to be 'used disparagingly.' Just because it's against the mostly-white NASCAR fan base doesn't make it any less offensive," said Project 21 director David Almasi.
Farrell's comments come at a time when others are under fire for insensitive comments. Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker, who is African-American, is being urged to apologize for saying that blacks and Hispanics are better acclimated to sun and heat because of racial characteristics. Talk show host Michael Savage was fired by MSNBC after he made anti-gay comments on the air, though he subsequently apologized and explained that he thought the microphone was off. Only Farrell has so far gone without substantial criticism. This is ironic, since the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, of which Rainbow Sports is affiliated, is normally an outspoken monitor and critic of insensitive statements.
Farrell's comment is not the first Rainbow/PUSH slur against NASCAR. In early June Rainbow/PUSH Coalition board member Bill Shack called NASCAR "the last bastion of white supremacy" in professional sports.
Several high-profile sports figures have had their careers end because of racially insensitive comments. Marge Schott lost her ownership of the Cincinnati Reds after making a wide range of insensitive remarks. Al Campanis lost his job as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers after he questioned the ability of blacks to manage in baseball. Dan Issel was let go as president and head coach of the Denver Nuggets after he yelled a racially-charged remark at a Hispanic heckler during a basketball game. And Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder was fired by ABC Sports as a football commentator after he said blacks were "bred [as slaves] to be better athlete[s]." All apologized, but nonetheless lost their status in professional sports.
Project 21's Michael King believes a double standard is in play.
"In sports, as in the rest of society, there is a double standard on race. If you're black and liberal, you get a pass on whatever you say no matter how politically incorrect. But if you're conservative and white - or black, for that matter - you're taken to task if your words aren't seen as politically correct," said Project 21 member Michael King. "If the playing field is supposed to be level and the comments from one side are cause for action, then similar comments from the other side of the field should be just as actionable. What Charles Farrell said was wrong, period - color notwithstanding."
Project 21 supports a campaign by the National Legal and Policy Center that calls on NASCAR to sever its financial ties to Rainbow/PUSH, which reportedly has received $250,000 from NASCAR. Project 21 has asked Rainbow/PUSH to use the NASCAR donation to sponsor one or more black drivers.
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or Project21@nationalcenter.org, or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.
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