Sport NASCAR needs to be able to say Kyle Larson's slur was racist, not "insensitive"

21:40  13 april  2020
21:40  13 april  2020 Source:   ftw.usatoday.com

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Kyle Larson wearing sunglasses posing for the camera © Provided by For The Win

Warning: The video in this post contains a racial slur.

All professional sports have been suspended for over a month now and yet NASCAR driver Kyle Larson still found a way to be shockingly, publicly racist.

During an iRacing event on Sunday night, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver appeared to lose headset communication with his spotter. Apparently trying to check his microphone, Larson said, “You can’t hear me? Hey, [N-word.]”

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The racial slur was broadcast live on the feed and, after an uncomfortable pause and some laughter, other drivers quickly let Larson know he could be heard by everyone.

“Kyle, you’re talking to everyone, bud,” a driver can be heard saying.

The casual utterance of such a despicable slur is already cause for alarm, yet the statements and apologies from Chip Ganassi Racing, NASCAR and Larson have fallen far short of what’s needed to adequately address the incident.

There’s no talking around it, the word Larson used was racist. Yet all parties involved have gone out of their way to obliquely reference the word. None of them have called it what it was: an act of racism.

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The first step to combating racism is to admit that it exists, and Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing and NASCAR couldn’t even get close to it.

In its initial statement addressing Larson’s language, Chip Ganassi Racing said, “The words that he chose to use are offensive and unacceptable.” Larson’s team suspended him without pay and for an indefinite amount of time, yet avoided calling the driver racist, which is what someone is when they so casually drop the n-word.

On Monday morning, NASCAR initially issued an even weaker, one-sentence statement.

“NASCAR is aware of insensitive language used by a driver during an iRacing event on Sunday, and is currently gathering more information.”

Again, for clarity, the word Larson used when he thought no one could hear him is racist, not “insensitive.” It’s a word that’s been used to oppress and dehumanize an entire population for centuries. It has no place coming out of Larson’s mouth.

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An hour later, NASCAR followed up with empty comments about its commitment to diversity and inclusion, and found creative new ways to refer to the N-word.

“NASCAR has made diversity and inclusion a priority and will not tolerate the type of language used by Kyle Larson during Sunday’s iRacing event. Our Member Conduct Guidelines are clear in this regard, and we will enforce these guidelines to maintain an inclusive environment for our entire industry and fan base.”

In his own video apology, Larson admitted the word was offensive, yet also stopped short of admitting his racist act.

In our current culture, it seems as if calling someone or something racist is  more offensive than being racist. What Larson said was racism, pure and simple. There’s no arguing that he didn’t understand what the word meant, or that he didn’t mean to use it, or that he simply misspoke.  It needs to be openly addressed as such. If it isn’t, how can Larson or NASCAR even start to fully understand why it was wrong to begin with?

As part of his punishment, Larson has been mandated to take sensitivity training, whatever that means.  Sensitivity isn’t what’s required when dealing with dropping the N-word like it’s no big deal. Historical relevance and a keen understanding of structural racism would serve Larson and the entire sport much better.

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Still,  that might be a bridge too far for a sport that has not banned confederate flags from being displayed at its races.  If there’s no understanding of why that symbol is similarly racist, there’s little hope that they would view the n-word as such.

Using the N-word is an aggressive, repulsive act and Larson threw it around casually during a livestream. Confronted with its use, NASCAR could have taken a stand against racism. Instead, it couldn’t even dare to utter the word racism —  which shows that everyone involved learned absolutely nothing.


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