In the wake of nationwide protests of racism, NASCAR moved Wednesday to ban the Confederate flag from its racetracks and facilities.
NASCAR issued a statement that read, "The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties."
While defenders of the Confederate flag maintain it is merely a sign of pride in Southern heritage, critics of the symbol argue that its presence represents support for the time and slavery and the subsequent racist treatment of black people.
The only full-time black NASCAR driver, Bubba Wallace, called for the organization to ban the Confederate flag during a Monday interview with CNN.
"My next step would be to get rid of all Confederate flags. No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race," Wallace said. "So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them."
For more than five years, NASCAR has prevented its tracks and teams from flying the Confederate flag, but it hadn't banned fans from doing so until Wednesday.
Brian France, then NASCAR's chief executive officer, said in July 2015, "In all areas that NASCAR controls on a given race weekend, the flag has no presence. We have been clear in support of this position throughout our industry and to those across the country who have called for the eradication of the Confederate flag. ...
"We will be as aggressive as possible to disassociate NASCAR events from an offensive and divisive symbol. We are working with the industry right now to achieve that goal."
However, at the same time, NASCAR issued a statement regarding fans' displays of the Confederate emblem, stating, that it "recognizes that freedom of expression is an inherent right of all citizens."
Back in 2005, France told CBS' "60 Minutes" regarding the prevalence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events, "I think it's a fading image. Well, look. I can't -- these are massive facilities. And I can't tell people what flag to fly. I can tell you the flag we get behind. It's the American flag."
--Field Level Media