The National Association for Minority Race Fans (NAMRF) opened its web site to the public Wednesday, as indicated last weekend at Talladega, where the group had intended to protest over what it says is mistreatment of female and minority attendees at NASCAR events.
Officials from Talladega Speedway, NASCAR, and the Alabama State Police held two news conferences over the weekend to discuss the matter, saying they had contacted the group and had set aside a parking area across the street from the track's entrance for demonstrators. The demonstration, however, failed to materialize. Instead, leaders of the NAMRF held a news conference at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame adjacent to the track.
The intentions of the group remain unclear, and the Web site does little to clarify the NAMRF's aims. A significant aspect is that the group plans to produce a documentary film (it is compared in a trailer to "Fahrenheit 9/11") for release Feb. 20.
The Web site also reproduces a letter, said to be from NASCAR counsel in Atlanta, which orders the NAMRF to desist from using any images gathered at NASCAR events. All such images, counsel says, are the property of NASCAR, as specified in policies formulated at the time of the network agreements in 2000.
The site is replete with images of Confederate flags, burning crosses, and a hooded klansman holding a NASCAR-logo flag. Further clicks offer access to the trailer and to a commercial (apparently not yet aired) that purports to illustrate racist attitudes among NASCAR fans.
In addition, the site offers addresses of corporations which sponsor NASCAR teams and events and urges boycotts. It also presents links for membership sign-up and for invitation to a class-action lawsuit, which apparently will allege discrimination by NASCAR and its tracks against women and minorities.
The suit notation on the site reads: "NAMRF will be supporting a series of class action lawsuits that will be filed with the U.S. Federal Court to protect and enforce the rights of minority race fans. If you feel you have been discriminated against by NASCAR or any racetrack employee, then you need to join the movement."
It was not said in what federal court the suit would be filed, nor was a timetable given. The NAMRF apparently has retained a reputable Dallas law firm, Godwin, Gruber LLC, to handle its legal matters.
NASCAR has launched or backed several "diversity" initiatives in the past few years in efforts to attract minority competitors and partners. The sport remains overwhelmingly white, in terms of both the racing and the customer base, but it would be hard to say that that is a result of directly discriminatory acts or policies by NASCAR or its tracks.
The NAMRF initiative appears to have serious and intelligent backing, and hence it must be taken seriously. It is likely to be a thorn in NASCAR's side through the winter and through Speed Weeks in February. As with all matters of such sensitivity, the NAMRF effort must be approached as with a live bomb.
It's best to look for yourself. The address is www.namrf.com.