10 April 2013

Why the NRA 500 is not a bad thing

NASCAR and the Texas Motor Speedway have come under fire of late for accepting the National Rifle Association for sponsoring Saturday night's race, the seventh race of the season. The sponsorship was announced a month ago and it has courted its fair share of controversy as the NRA is a key player in the gun debate that is currently being had in this country just months after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

While it is a touch subject, I do not think that allowing the NRA to sponsor a NASCAR race is a bad idea and here is why.

I understand that the NRA is a very polarizing group and especially so as they have opposed gun control legislation in the wake of the shooting in Newtown. But you cannot deny that it is an organization that represents of many millions of Americans, and particularly in the state of Texas. It also is not a hate group, rather it is a group that supports and promotes ownership of firearms, which is something that appeals to many of NASCAR's core demographic. While it is not simply a sport of the South as it truly is a national sport, a solid piece of the sport's fanbase are folks that are active in the outdoors, including going hunting. It is why the NRA has sponsored races and drivers before.

Also, I do not believe that NASCAR is aligning itself with the NRA politically. Nobody at NASCAR is saying that they are standing with the NRA by allowing this sponsorship and as TMS president Eddie Gossage has said, there will not be any political speeches or any literature given out. This is simply the NRA writing a check to TMS and TMS accepting it. After all, sponsorship is hard to come by these days and NASCAR has had sponsors before that have been under fire, for example Cracker Barrel. Nobody accused NASCAR of standing by Cracker Barrel's policies which some have regarded as homophobic. Plus, let's not forget that NASCAR publicly supported the

It is also important to point out that Gander Mountain, the popular outdoors store, is sponsoring Clint Bowyer's Toyota this Saturday night with a message of responsible gun ownership.

Ultimately, the NRA is not taking advantage of this sponsorship to get their anti-gun control message across. This will not be a political rally, simply a race sponsored by an organization that has a similar target audience to many of the fans that will be in attendance Saturday night in Fort Worth. Personally, I have no problem with this because the racetrack's job is to make money. If the NRA is willing to pay a decent sum to sponsor a race to not make political statements but to showcase itself to the fans and to the viewers, there is nothing wrong with that.

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