Magazine article Black Enterprise

Taking Diversity for a Spin around the Track

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Taking Diversity for a Spin around the Track

Article excerpt

Why is diversity a big deal to Brian France, chairman and CEO of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing? In the 55-year history of this Southern sport--with its good ol' boys fan club and confederate-flag-waving members--we can't think of a single year when NASCAR actually embraced African Americans. It offered no assistance to Julius Erving or Jackie Joyner-Kersee when they tried to build a team back in the day.

With its new diversity push, is NASCAR serious about attracting African Americans to the sport? We sent our Lifestyle Editor Sonia Alleyne and writer and Witcher to find out. All they got was the standard press release stating that France wanted to build a minority fan base. We doubt it's that simple. Our guess is that France and his team of executives are trying to duplicate what we call the "Woods-Williams Effect." They want an African American to do for NASCAR what Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters did for golf and tennis. France knows that having someone like Tiger or Venus and Serena in NASCAR will mean more money--and lots of it--as well as more sponsors contributing to the circuit. NASCAR is looking for someone who can energize the sport.

The problem is the approach NASCAR is taking to attract minority participation. France is looking for the next Tiger of NASCAR instead of developing him. While Bill Lester is the most visible black driver in the circuit, as Alleyne points out, his experience with NASCAR isn't as extensive as many of the other white drivers. …

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