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- American racing driver
Nov. 26—"Let's go, Brandon!"
Every time I see or hear that phrase, it is like nails on a chalkboard.
But not for the reason many of you may think.
Do I agree with the sentiments behind it? Absolutely not.
Do I think it is childish? Absolutely.
Would I rather see signs saying what it really means? No. I hate seeing or hearing vulgarities in public. That's not to say they don't slip out of my mouth from time to time, but I do my best not to swear when it is meant for public consumption.
What irks me the most about that phrase is that it has turned what should have been one of the happiest days in a struggling racer's life into something that will forever be known as a slur against a president.
I would bet most people using the phrase don't even know its origins.
In the weeks before the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Talledega, the chant "(expletive) Joe Biden" was heard at several sporting events, mostly college football games.
And when Brandon Brown crossed the finish line first in his family-owned Brandonbilt Motorsports car on Oct. 2 the crowd cheered. According to a caller into SXM radio, a cheer of "Let's go, Brandon!" quickly devolved into the vulgar chat.
As NBC typically does, the reporter covering the race winner's pit interviewed the winner near the finish line in front of the cheering fans. The reporter, Kelli Stavast, either misheard the chant or tried to cover up what was really being said by saying: "As you can hear the chants from the crowd, 'Let's go, Brandon'" during the live interview.
I was listening to the race on the radio, so I didn't see the interview. Later, I saw the clip making its way around Twitter. I didn't think too much of it, mostly feeling bad for Stavast, who was put into a bad spot.
And I truly feel bad for Brandon Brown. He first tried to make light of it, tweeting, "To all the other Brandon's out there, You're welcome! Let's go us." But then the phrase went viral — and not as a way to congratulate a race winner.
Brown and his family are running an underfunded second-tier NASCAR team and had been scrounging for sponsorship all year. Brown once ran his car with a "For Sale" decal on it, and a few month before Talledega, he created a brilliant video, in the spirit of an infomercial, which can be seen at https://tinyurl.com/4fut6s9f, encouraging sponsors to come aboard.
That Talladega win should have opened the doors to more sponsorship, and a more-solid footing for the team, but instead that day has had some of his sponsors questioning their backing of a car associated with a phrase that mocks the president.
NASCAR leadership also has stepped in, with President Steve Phelps condemning the phrase and threatening legal action against those who use the NASCAR logo in merchandizing.
"Do we like the fact that it kind of started with NASCAR and then is gaining ground elsewhere? No, we're not happy about that," Phelps said. "But we will continue to make sure that we have respect for the office of the president."
Despite what some say, that was not an endorsement of the president and left-leaning policies by NASCAR. It is a company trying to protect its image
Those who say NASCAR is turning left politically point out that Matt DiBenedetto, who is still looking for a ride next year, was called out by many in the industry for using the phrase, and the NASCAR community embraced Bubba Wallace, the only Black full-time driver in the top three levels of NASCAR, after a noose was found in his garage stall last year. (Let's not ignore the fact that calling out racism shouldn't be a left or right issue, but for some it is.)
Some also wonder why NASCAR didn't say anything to Wallace when he tweeted "Ha, let the boy be black and it would've been life ... he would've had his life taken before the ... trial" after Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted.
It's not the same thing. Political opinions are fine, but if an athlete disparages another athlete or the sport in general, they rightfully should be called to the carpet by officials.
I hope that vulgar meaning of that phrase will soon just be a memory, and people can easily encourage Brandon Brown to "go" win another race.
Denielle Cazzolla is editor of The Daily Star. She can be reached at 607-441-7259 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @DS_DenielleC on Twitter.