Before Sunday's rained-out Geico 500, reporters posted a photo of a plane pulling a sizeable Confederate flag banner above Talladega Superspeedway. Now a group has come forward and claimed responsibility. The Sons of Confederate Veterans said that they were the ones behind the airborne display.
According to the Columbia Daily Herald, the group sent a small airplane to protest NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag from all events. Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander in Chief Paul C. Gramling Jr. said that racing's governing body was trampling on their rights to free speech. NASCAR did not acknowledge the banner or the message reading "Defund NASCAR." Although Executive VP Steve O'Donnell posted a photo of Black and White hands shaking while saying that a "jackass" won't be flying a flag over the track.
"NASCAR's banning the display of the Confederate battle flag by its fans is nothing less than trampling upon Southerners' First Amendment Right of free expression," Gramling Jr. said. "This un-American act shall not go unchallenged. [On Sunday], members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Confederate Air Force displayed its disapproval of NASCAR's trampling upon the First Amendment Rights of Southerners. During and before the start of the NASCAR race in Talladega, Alabama, race, our plane flew a banner announcing a drive to 'defund NASCAR.'
"It is the hope of the Sons of Confederate Veterans that NASCAR fans will be allowed the fundamental American right of displaying pride in their family and heritage. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is proud of the diversity of the Confederate military and our modern Southland. We believe NASCAR's slandering of our Southern heritage only further divides our nation. The Sons of Confederate Veterans will continue to defend not only our right but the Right of all Americans to celebrate their heritage. We trust NASCAR will do the same."
The Sons of Confederate Veterans have headquarters in Columbia, Tennessee. The group has also built a National Confederate Museum on the property, which remains closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On the organization's website, it says that "The forces of political correctness have gone into high gear. They attempt to ban any and all things Confederate through their ideological fascism."
NASCAR decided to ban the Confederate flag on June 10. Driver Bubba Wallace had talked to CNN and called for the governing body to make the policy change to become more inclusive for potential fans. NASCAR agreed and promptly informed fans that they could no longer bring the Confederate flag to events or facilities.
This decision prompted several responses from supporters and critics alike. New fans, such as New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, applauded NASCAR's move and pledged to watch every single season. Those that have an affinity for the flag pledged to boycott professional racing until they can fly the flag once again.