Proving that one can see people as just people and not evil political actors because of a difference of opinion, one woman whose job takes her throughout NASCAR fandom is not about to let the presence of the fans’ Confederate flags ruin her love for the sport.
NASCAR officials have spent the better part of the last several seasons pleading with fans to leave their Confederate flags at home. In 2015, NASCAR chairman Brian France even announced plans to force fans to dump the Southern Cross.
“We want to go as far as we can to eliminate the presence of that flag,” France said in June of 2015. “I personally find it an offensive symbol, so there is no daylight how we feel about it and our sensitivity to others who feel the same way.”
The presence of the Confederate flag has been a big issue for fans who insist that NASCAR officials have no right to tell them to deny their heritage. But, the flag has the same connotation with detractors at NASCAR as it does in every other situation, with those hoping to ban the flag calling those flying the banner nothing but racists.
Into this melee steps Monster Energy Girl Mariel Lane, who has refused to automatically characterize NASCAR fans who fly the bestarred banner as racists.
While noting she was “startled and nervous” when she first saw all those Confederate flags after she entered the world of NASCAR as a member of an advertiser’s crew, she has since realized that the accusations about flag supporters isn’t exactly as cut and dried as anti-flag protesters claim.
Lane notes she does not automatically see the fans toting the C.S.A. flag as evil.
“But I guess since there’s not as much of a presence of minorities, it’s not something that people have to think about as often,” Lane told ForTheWin.com. “Once you start working in the sport, you train yourself to push it out. And NASCAR is something I’ve grown to love and even the fans and people that are part of it.”
Lane went on to say she now feels that many of the fans don’t see the flag in racial terms but as a matter of family and heritage.
“There are people who think it’s just a Southern pride thing,” Lane added. “It’s not saying they don’t care about people’s feelings, but it’s a little not coherent to, maybe, someone else’s opinion on it.”
Lane added that she doesn’t push her personal feelings about the Confederate flag with fans because she wants to be able to get to know them, and leading with an anti-flag position prevents that. Lane concluded saying she doesn’t want to think that “a group of people are a certain type of way because of a flag,” because “you want to genuinely get to know the fans and love them and not have preconceived notions because of something they have (hanging) up.”
So, as anti-flag protesters continue promulgating the contention that anyone who flies a Confederate flag must by nature be an overt racist, Monster Energy’s Mariel Lane refuses to fall into that trap.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.