NASCAR Bans The ‘General Lee’ From Phoenix Race Due To Confederate Flag
by Jeff Gluck
Feb 17, 2012
Last month, PGA golfer Bubba Watson purchased his dream car – the famed "General Lee" of Dukes of Hazzard fame – for $110,000 at the Barrett-Jackson automobile auction.
Phoenix International Raceway officials then invited Watson — a close friend of NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin — to be an honorary race official and take a lap in his new ride prior to the upcoming Sprint Cup Series race at the track.
But NASCAR caught wind of the arrangement this week and nixed the whole idea on grounds the car could be considered offensive.
The General Lee, which was driven by the Duke boys in the early 1980s TV series, is named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee and has a Confederate flag on the roof.
While that may have been acceptable in the old NASCAR, the new NASCAR is much more image-conscious and doesn’t want to exclude any of its fans.
NASCAR’s view is having the General Lee parade around the track before one of its races could be construed as condoning a symbol of racism.
Watson’s view, though, is pure disappointment:
Confederate flags remain a common sight at NASCAR races because some campers fly the flags in a salute to their Southern heritage. But NASCAR officials believe there’s a big difference between a guy hanging a flag on his RV and allowing the General Lee – and thus the Confederate flag – to take a parade lap in front of 70,000 people.
NASCAR’s decision not to promote a potentially offensive symbol may be laudable, but some fans will likely consider it as an overly sensitive move.
A sizable number of fans won’t look at the General Lee as anything but an iconic vehicle from a popular sitcom, and thus, they may view NASCAR’s ban as a politically correct overreaction.
© 2012 Vox Media, Inc.