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I Will Not Abandon Kyle Larson

by Chris Hearn about a year ago in racing

The Way Kyle Larson Is Being Treated Over a One-Word Mistake is Obscene in Itself.

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I am so disgusted and disappointed at the moment about the situation around Kyle Larson. For those unaware, NASCAR driver Kyle Larson was iRacing on a live stream on his computer and said the N word. And fall out has been swift and, if you ask me, ridiculous.

In no way do I justify Kyle Larson’s use of the N word. It wasn’t a smart move. I understand the connotations of the word. I understand why it is offensive. And, yes, there probably should be some disciplinary action taken.

However, I have been utterly shocked and angered by the sheer level of backlash he has received, which has been absolutely over the top. As I write this, Chevrolet has announced that they are severing ties with Kyle Larson which puts his future as a driver in both NASCAR and sprint cars at risk. NASCAR has indefinitely suspended him and is sending him to sensitivity training. And the NASCAR team he drives for, Chip Ganassi Racing, has suspended him without pay.

How on earth could things have gone THIS far? Yes, Kyle Larson made a mistake. He said an awful word. However, we are talking about probably one of the nicest guys in the sport, a great driver, a great dad and for the most part a fantastic ambassador for both NASCAR and dirt racing. And yes, I am a big fan. He’s been a force for good in the sport, and his mistake does not change that for me.

I am disappointed at how severely he is being punished for a mistake made while playing a video game. No matter how unjustified using the word is, this level of punishment is completely disproportionate. An example is being made of a good guy.

I am particularly frustrated with NASCAR over this. I am a big fan of NASCAR, but I have definitely held my nose over a lot of things when it comes to the sport. I remember back when Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of the biggest names the sport has ever had, called fellow driver Kyle Busch a “f*g”. To my knowledge, Junior received no punishment for using that highly offensive slur in a news conference. I’m a Dale Jr. fan, and that didn’t change as the result of his unfortunate use of a slur, but I was disappointed that he chose that word.

I’ve watched over the last 4 years as NASCAR has openly embraced Donald Trump, and have been frustrated by it. I do not understand why NASCAR feels it can take the moral high ground in its treatment of Kyle Larson when the organization has backed a racist, sexist man such as Donald Trump.

I remember being so disappointed when Bill Elliot, Chase Elliot and Brian France got up on stage during a Trump rally and fully endorsed him. I am still a fan of both Bill and Chase and have not let my disappointment change that. One of Trump’s more shameful moments was when a video of him was released where the famous line, “Grab ‘em by the pussy” was first introduced into American pop culture. The language he used and the implication of taking advantage of women without consent was appalling. And yet, NASCAR has still embraced him, and continues to do so.

Then there are his policies which have been described by many as blatantly racist or bigoted, including travel bans from certain countries and actions on the US/Mexico border. He has a long history of racist activity, including refusing to rent to black people in the 80s. He has been quite openly bigoted when it comes to immigrants. And yet, NASCAR fully embraces him. In one of the few races that have been run this year, the Daytona 500, Trump was an honoured guest. A number of NASCAR drivers were positively giddy with his presence and were ecstatic about getting autographs from him. Larson using the N word pales in comparison to Trump’s actually racist policies.

Then, there is the fact that William Byron, who drives a Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports, is partly sponsored by Liberty University. The school is a private Evangelical Christian university run by Jerry Falwell Jr. and well known for its anti-LGBTQ policies. Every time the famous 24 car has Liberty University on the front hood, I cringe. Yet, again, NASCAR has openly accepted the school. I still think Byron is a great driver, I like Hendrick Motorsports and I don’t think they should be “cancelled”, but I still hate to see the logo of the university on that car.

So, for NASCAR to come down so hard on Kyle Larson for the mistake he made while playing a video game comes across as absolutely hypocritical as well as draconian. And to say that I’m disappointed in NASCAR, Chevrolet and Chip Ganassi Racing would probably be an understatement. I love NASCAR and will not stop watching. I’m still a fan. I am still glad that Chevrolet is part of the sport and think, for the most part, that they do a great job for NASCAR. And I like Chip Ganassi. None of that changes. As well, my support for Kyle Larson does not change either. I wish he did not use that word. It wasn’t a good move on his part. However, I will not abandon him over this and I will defend him against some of the harshest critics. Punishment for him might be due, but not to the extent that it is being dished out right now. No way.

Chris Hearn
Chris Hearn
Read next: 'Stop! We're Going to Crash'
Chris Hearn

I'm a 47 year old writer, amateur photographer and amateur dad living in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.

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