The NRA paid $1 million to sponsor April 13’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. It was the first time that the organization sponsored a NASCAR event since it underwrote a Nationwide Series race last year at Atlanta.
Despite objections from some critics — primarily media mouthpieces with little interest in, and no knowledge of, NASCAR — Texas Motor Speedway officials say they’d welcome an offer from the NRA to sponsor the race every year.
“Our customers are hunters, so demographically, we match up very well” with an NRA-sponsored NASCAR race, TMS President Eddie Gossage told USA Today on April 12. “This isn’t a political rally. There will be nobody stuffing NRA leaflets in your hand or making any speeches. That’s why I say it’s a sports marketing platform. It’s not a political message platform.”
Gossage told Bob Pockrass of Sporting News on April 11 that only a few people had contacted the speedway to criticize the NRA sponsorship decision.
“We’ve had fewer than a dozen responses,” Gossage said. “Of those, only two had purchased tickets [to other TMS events]. There is no controversy or big uproar or even a tiny uproar. It’s just not a big deal to the public. The public isn’t having a problem.”
NASCAR, however, isn’t as supportive of future NRA sponsorships.
NASCAR spokesman David Higdon told the Associated Press the day after the race that the organization was stung by criticism for allowing the NRA to sponsor a Sprint Cup race four months after the Newtown shootings.
“This situation has made it clear that we need to take a closer look at our (sponsorship) approval process moving forward, as current circumstances need to be factored in when making decisions,” Higdon said.
According to Terry Blount of ESPN.com, two unnamed drivers were advised by their public relations directors not to do interviews and to avoid being photographed or videotaped with the NRA logo behind them.
The most prominent objection to the NRA 500 came from Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who demanded that News Corp. kingpin Rupert Murdoch cancel the Fox Network broadcast of the race.
The obnoxious self-righteousness of Murphy’s crassly political charade spurred Anne Sorock, co-founder of The Frontier Lab, to note in a legalinsurrection.com blog, how dangerous such hypocrisy is.
“A member of the government instructing media as to what they can and cannot air? A member of the government calling an organization designed to protect a right protected by the Constitution extreme?” Sorock writes. “That’s two rights undermined in one paragraph, Murphy.
Jonathon M. Seidl in an April 15 blog in The Blaze notes that there was little over bias in how the media covered the race, noting that the AP, ESPN, and Fox rarely mentioned the event’s formal name, but often don’t in their event coverage.
“The AP wrote an entire article without referencing the race’s official name, the NRA 500,” he writes, adding that ESPN’s Sports Center “did the same thing.”
Those who watched the race say the Fox broadcasters mentioned the official name at the beginning of the race, but then used generic references the rest of the way, Seidl writes.
“But further examination reveals that the three outlets seem to have been simply keeping in line with the way they’ve recently handled official race names,” he concludes, “specifically when looking at last week’s race in Martinsville as a comparison.”
For his part, Gossage and other NASCAR fans don’t understand what the problem is with the NRA sponsoring a race in Texas.
“This isn’t a sponsorship that would work if you were at Sears Point Raceway (near San Francisco),” Gossage said. “We’re Texas Motor Speedway and I know what works here and what doesn’t. This isn’t an issue here.”
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— NASCAR eyes sponsor decisions