DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Daytona International Speedway is going to celebrate one flag this weekend — and it’s not the Confederate flag.
“We want to be open and inclusive,” track president Joie Chitwood told the Orlando Sentinel Tuesday. “We want to celebrate the American flag this weekend. That’s the flag that we should be celebrating. We’re going to have flags available so if fans want to exchange whatever flags they have for an American flag, we want to make sure they wave our nation’s flag. It’s our nation’s birthday. We’re going to have military there. That’s going to be our goal.”
NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and NASCAR Chairman Brian France have both spoken out strongly against it, the Orlando Sentinel said, with France saying he wants nothing to do with the flag when it comes to the NASCAR brand.
South Carolina lawmakers raised the universally known Confederate emblem over the State House in 1961, officially in honor of the war’s centennial. But it was also a time of growing momentum in the civil rights movement, and white leaders in the South were digging their heels in against efforts to end segregation. For nearly 40 years, it flew under the U.S. and state flags, above the seat of government, until a compromise moved it to a flagpole next to a soldiers’ monument.
That move didn’t satisfy opponents, who maintained that the flag’s display on the grounds amounted to tacit state endorsement of white supremacy.
But efforts to remove it had gone nowhere in the years before the awful night of June 17 — when nine people who had gathered for Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston were massacred. All nine victims were African-American, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who also was a state senator.