Following last weekend’s NASCAR racing action at Daytona International Speedway, Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR. Usually indefinite suspensions come after failed NASCAR-mandated drug tests, but not this time. This time around the punishment was handed down for something a driver said.
Drivers have been slapped on the wrists for things that have come out of there mouth before, be they in interviews or via Twitter. But usually those punishments have taken the form of monetary fines — no suspensions, no points deductions. So obviously, whatever spewed from Clements’ mouth went above and beyond what NASCAR normally considers unacceptable.
When NASCAR announced its penalty for Clements, the sanctioning body didn’t go into much detail as to what Clements said. Since Clements isn’t interviewed all that often (he’s not one of the more popular drivers in the Nationwide garage), one statement he made in Daytona was assumed by many fans to be the death nail in Clements rather unspectacular NASCAR career. Here is that statement, as printed by USA Today:
“I think she’s stuck up and not really that pretty, although I wouldn’t turn down her. Both the NASCAR fans and NASCAR have a fixed pole for her. Really don’t like that cause she doesn’t deserve it but she opened herself up to stuff like this. And for what? Another pole at Daytona. Come on, either win or be a another pretty face kissing the winner.”
I could easily see NASCAR having an issue with that statement. It runs down a fellow competitor while also accuses NASCAR of fixing an event. Drivers have been fined for saying things less offensive. Besides, how did NASCAR fix that pole at Daytona? Was her car listed as going faster than it did? And how do fans fix poles? I realize NASCAR is a fan-friendly sport, but I never knew they had enough power to influence a driver’s lap time.
But come to find out, Clements used a racial slur, specifically the “N word” during an interview with someone from MTV. Ahh, the suspension now makes more sense. Of course, not to put down Clements’ popularity, or lack thereof, in anyway, I was a little surprised to hear that MTV had event interviewed Clements. He’s not exactly a household name. But that’s not the point here.
NASCAR’s long been trying to move past its reputation as a redneck, white track sport and getting some critics to even acknowledge it as a sport is a stretch. And then a driver, neverthemind one who people not following the Nationwide Series closely would’ve even heard of, uses a racial slur when being interviewed by a reporter outside the sport. It doesn’t exactly cast the best light.
I’m all for freedom of speech. But even with the freedom, there are some things that just shouldn’t be said.