CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — NASCAR is joining a growing list of companies to get called out online in recent weeks.
The #BOYCOTTNASCAR hashtag is picking up speed after the company tweeted and an image showing support for the LGBTQ community.
The tweet got millions of views and thousands of replies. The majority of comments are from people saying they will no longer support the racing organization.
“So, for all the fans that are leaving, I guarantee that there is just as much many coming,” said Stephen Rhodes, the first openly gay NASCAR driver.
The North Carolina native began racing at 8 years old and is currently signed with Young’s Motorsports in Mooresville.
He says the backlash for the tweet was to be expected.
“You know just reading through some of the comments, I kept seeing things like, ‘blocked,’ the words ‘bye.’ ‘Fan lost,’” Rhodes said. “And I’ve said for years and years that NASCAR, to be relevant again, that it was going to need to make some changes.”
NASCAR is not the first organization in recent weeks to experience a wave of online criticism. Target and Anheuser-Busch both faced boycotts following their publicized support for the Pride community.
Both companies took a financial loss.
“You almost have to make the assumption that someone is going to be outraged,” Padilla President Matt Kucharski said.
His national consulting firm helps organizations build their brands and how to protect themselves during times of adversity.
He says in recent years, more and more companies are feeling the pressure to take a stance on social or political issues.
“If a brand is switching from bring exclusive and appealing to one group, and now it is trying to expand that, there are going to be consequences,” Kucharski explained, “especially in this polarized environment where it is almost a case of ‘if you are not for me, you must be against me.'”
He says in the past, companies would have avoided topics like this, but are now facing pressure from stakeholders to make some sort of a statement.
“There has definitely been a shift to organizations, but brands in particular needing to take a stand on social issues and it is driven by their stakeholders and those stakeholders are their customers as well as their employees,” Kucharski said.
“It’s been years and years and years that NASCAR has stayed silent, and I’m sure that they have their reasons,” Rhodes said. “But there is a big community that also supports NASCAR, and it made a lot of people happy.”
Queen City News reached out to NASCAR for a comment regarding their tweet and the response it had received. There has yet to be a response.