NASCAR shoots ... and misses
News item: The National Rifle Association will sponsor the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at the Texas Motor Speedway on April 13, the "NRA 500."
Reaction to the news item: cue laugh track. Actually, cue convulsive laugh track.
The NRA 500.
The Indianapolis 500 winner gets milk. The NRA 500 winner gets ? his back windows shot out?
(Sorry, couldn't resist).
Let me just say this: I've seen cases of overkill before. A coupon at the dollar store, a bran muffin with a prune juice chaser. But NASCAR and the NRA? Isn't that, you know, like recruiting the recruited?
Clearly, NASCAR's chances to grow its sport are swirling the bowl. Because its poohbahs, who likely gave up plans to teach at Yale long ago, must realize by now that it's really hard to get more offensive than the NRA 500.
Unless, of course, it's the NRA 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway, whose pole winner wins a rifle and whose winner fires a six-shooter filled with blanks.
This is just what we all need to see.
That's if anybody who isn't already predisposed to watching the vroom vrooms would bother to watch in the first place.
Note to race officials: If people from Newtown don't get to their televisions in time, you can probably go ahead and start without them.
Same for the rest of us.
How could any fringe fan of the sport see the words "NRA 500" and not think, "really?"
National debate on this has, shockingly, missed the target. One blogger at Yahoo actually wrote this:
"This is a simple business transaction, and NASCAR and the speedway shouldn't feel bad about taking the NRA's money. Distancing itself from an NRA sponsorship would open up a Pandora's Box of other groups that might not be able to sponsor, and as an advocate of free speech I don't want to go down that path. The NRA is a group with the same free speech rights as anyone else, and if they want to use NASCAR as an outlet for their views, they have that right.
"Anyone who would seek to stop the NRA from being able to sponsor a NASCAR race is missing the point. It's about freedom of speech, bottom line, and nothing can change that."
Note to blogger: Duh. Of course the NRA has a "right." But must NASCAR absolutely, positively take the money? Remember: This is the same NASCAR whose drivers have visited Newtown and whose chairman, Brian France, just matched a donation to the Sandy Hook Special Support Fund.
So we have this national debate over gun control now and the best NASCAR can muster in a statement is "Race entitlement partnerships are agreements directly between the track and the sponsor. NASCAR reserves the right to approve or disapprove those sponsorships. The race sponsor for Texas Motor Speedway's April event falls within the guidelines for approval for that event."
That's code for "we really need the money and we don't care where it comes from."
Even in a country still smarting - in some places, anyway - from the images of little kids getting slaughtered.
NASCAR apologists dismiss this as a "simple business transaction."
This is the worst form of greed.
Because it exploits a national tragedy.
NASCAR needs the money that bad? Really? So it panders to the organization that panders to gun manufacturers more than it does gun owners?
I've never liked standing on the street corner looking at the intersection of where politics and sports meet. It's even more detestable today. The NRA, feeling persecuted because of the national gun debate, seeks some cheap publicity. And NASCAR is dumb enough to grant it. All under the guise of "NASCAR reserves the right to approve or disapprove those sponsorships."
Perhaps the NRA shouldn't stop with NASCAR. How about sponsoring the three-point contest at the NBA All-Star game? The NRA Shootout. We could all find out what shoots better: J.J. Redick or an AK-47. Maybe if the game is in Dallas, all the fans at the game can take some a souvenir Mannlicher Carcano.
Should be a great night April 13. Note to NASCAR: Enjoy counting your money.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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