On his podcast this week, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. further separated himself from other heavyweights in the sport who don’t feel like he does about the rights of NFL players to kneel during the national anthem.
Earnhardt, voted by fans as the sport’s most popular driver for 14 years, tweeted this week that he supported the players’ right to protest during the national anthem despite President Donald Trump’s feelings to the contrary.
The NFL players’ actions prompted NASCAR team owner Richard Childress and retired NASCAR driver and current team owner Richard Petty to say they would fire any members of their teams who likewise knelt during the national anthem.
“Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country. Period,” Petty said, according to The Associated Press.
“I’ll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus,” Childress said, referring to any team members who dared protest during the national anthem.
Those reactions prompted follow-up comments from Earnhardt on his podcast.
“I kept seeing a lot of negativity about NASCAR on social media,’’ Earnhardt said. “It’s just the same tired stigma that we’ve dealt with for many, many years. So, I didn’t feel like that Richard’s comments and Richard Petty’s comments were the way the entire sport felt.
“They have the right to their opinion. I just didn’t want anyone speaking for me. I felt like that you could assume that those were my own personal feelings as well. I wanted to make that clear. With that said, I stand for the flag during the national anthem, always have, always will.
“We have an incredibly large military presence at our races,” Earnhardt said. “We go above and beyond to show our patriotism and what it means to be Americans and how proud we are of that and how proud we are of the flag and what it stands for.
“No surprise to me everyone at the track stood and addressed the flag during the anthem, which I think will continue. But I also understand that the man next to me, if he wants to do something different, that’s his right. I might not agree with everything somebody does, but it’s their right to have that opportunity to do that. I can’t take that away from them, and I don’t want them taking it away from me.’’