NASCAR’s attempt to block a fan’s online video of Saturday’s fiery crash highlights the complications behind a growing culture where nearly every event can be posted online almost instantaneously, marketing and media experts said.
The video, which was uploaded onto YouTube, showed Kyle Larson’s No. 32 car pushed airborne and into Daytona International Speedway’s safety fence during the DRIVE4COPD 300 in the Nationwide Series. Debris, including one of Larson’s tires, rained into the crowd and injured 28 spectators.
NASCAR officials said Sunday that they requested YouTube pull the video to show compassion for the injured.
But some communications experts said that NASCAR’s move exacerbated an already unfavorable public relations incident.
“When your company is as big as NASCAR, it’s hard to control that image when stuff like that gets out,” said Bill Voth, co-founder of the Charlotte-based social media firm Spiracle Media. “They might have learned a tough lesson that the genie is just not going back in the bottle.”
Joey Senat, a media law professor at Oklahoma State University, said that in a world where “everyone can be a journalist” with their smartphone, NASCAR’s effort probably raised suspicions among fans that NASCAR could have somehow been at fault for the incident.
In the minds of some, he said, “Maybe this raises questions about the fencing,” Senat said. “Maybe they don’t want you to see what actually happened.”
Added Noah Coslov, host and managing editor of cinesport.com, an online video company: “You can’t control what fans are going to do with their phones and their video cameras,” he said. “And the more and more you try to police it and take things down, it’s just like anything else, people are going to try to beat the system.”
Voth said NASCAR’s censorship attempt is ironic, given that the organization has gained a reputation for being forward thinking when it comes to social media.
On Saturday, “they tried to go back a few years,” Voth said.
But in a statement on Sunday, NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps defended the organization’s decision.
“This was never a copyright issue. This was never a censorship issue. The video of (Saturday’s) crash at Daytona International Speedway was blocked out of respect for those injured in the accident.”
Google ultimately decided to unblock the videos late Saturday, according to a NASCAR statement. It was also back up on YouTube Sunday.
Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a nonprofit journalism group, said the multibillion-dollar organization might have had a better chance keeping the video off YouTube if it had argued its case on licensing grounds.
“You give up an awful lot of rights when you go into private venues,” he said.
Tompkins said he wouldn’t blame NASCAR for enforcing its licensing agreement because if you don’t enforce them, you lose them.
According to the licensing agreement on NASCAR tickets, NASCAR owns everything that goes on in the venue as well as all video, stills and sounds captured.
Tompkins said such cases were bound to happen, especially in a society where more and more people use social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.
“It’s inevitable that this issue … becomes more prominent,” Tompkins said. “This is a spreading issue.”
Arriero: 704-804-2637; Twitter: @earriero
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