Dover officials support NASCAR’s Confederate flag ban

U.S. flags are a common sight on race weekend at Dover International Speedway. Mike Tatoian, the speedway’s president and CEO, said he generally hasn’t seen many Confederate flags on display around the campgrounds at the Monster Mile, which is one of the sport’s more northern tracks geographically. Delaware State News file photos

DOVER — The Civil War ended 155 years ago.

Some of the battles it left behind, though, are still being fought.

NASCAR took a widely-debated step on Wednesday by banning the display of the Confederate battle flag at its events.

The ripples from that contentious debate reached to Dover International Speedway, which is slated to host a NASCAR weekend in August.
Dover Motorsports released a statement in support of the ban.

“Everyone should feel welcome at Dover International Speedway, no matter their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality or religion,” it read. “We strive to create an inclusive community where everyone can enjoy the thrill of NASCAR.”

Mike Tatoian, Dover International Speedway’s President and CEO, said he generally hasn’t seen many Confederate flags on display around the campgrounds at the Monster Mile, which is one of the sports’ more northern tracks geographically.

“I may see one or two throughout an entire weekend in my travels,” he said. “The most popular flags I see are the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag and banners representing that group’s favorite drivers. I suspect that will still be the case moving forward.”

Tatoian believes that the flag ban is just one of several “forward-thinking decisions” by NASCAR that will ultimately help the sport in the future.

“From debuting virtual racing to a public starved for sports content to the smooth rollout of live events over the last several weeks to Wednesday’s flag announcement, NASCAR has shown its willingness to adapt to changing environments and move ahead in a positive manner,” he said.

Not surprisingly, NASCAR’s decision touched off a debate on Dover International’s Facebook page.

By Thursday afternoon, there were over 400 comments posted on the subject.

While much of the debate fell into standard personal and political commentary, some people expressed their feelings about the flag itself. A number of people, who were against the ban, said they wouldn’t be attending Dover races in the future because of it.

Some posters said the flag ban was an attempt to erase history.

“Why not teach the history of America instead of trying to bury it,” wrote one. “I hope every fan at the tracks fly the Confederate flag. Let’s see how many stay up.”

“You can’t erase history if your gonna try and delete it like it never happened,” wrote another. “You can’t improve on the future if you don’t know the past.”

But other people writing on Dover’s Facebook page were in favor of not having the Confederate flag on display at races.

“Well up until the 40s not having black and white players on the same team was a Baseball Tradition,” said one writer. “The only tradition I care about in Nascar is good racing.”

“Not a tradition for my NASCAR,” another post read. “No need for it.”

What remains to be seen is how NASCAR and its tracks enforce the flag ban.

A few years ago, the circuit asked fans not to fly the Confederate flag anymore but there were no consequences if they did. One poster on Facebook said he planned to set up a tent outside Dover’s grounds to sell the flags on race weekend.

Of course, NASCAR returned last month without fans in attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic. A limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the Cup race in Miami on Sunday, however.

Dover is tentatively slated to host a race weekend on Aug. 21-23, although NASCAR hasn’t finalized its modified schedule for August, yet.

Tatoian said Dover officials haven’t received any directives from NASCAR yet on how to enforce the flag ban.

“Knowing the new rule,” he said, “I would anticipate that any fan would now think twice about the possible consequences before displaying a Confederate flag on Dover International Speedway property for future NASCAR weekends.”