Bubba Wallace, the only African American driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, used his platform last week to push the American institution to ban Confederate flags from all future events. Among those voicing support for the long overdue decision was Alvin Kamara, one of NASCAR’s and Wallace’s newest fans.
Almost immediately following the announcement, the Saints’ All-Pro running back tweeted his interest in knowing when the next race would be. On Sunday, Kamara, donning a Wallace hat and shirt, was invited to be one of 1,000 fans in attendance for the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. The event had the added distinction of being the first major sporting event to host fans since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March.
As one of many athletes in recent weeks voicing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and sweeping social justice reform in the U.S., Kamara expressed his optimism regarding the sport’s recent change.
“I don’t think it’s about when to say it. It’s about it actually being said,” Kamara said, according to David Wilson of the Miami Herald. “It’s taken this long to do it and it is what it is. Me personally, I’m not going to be mad at that because the climate dictated it. The fact that they sat down and got rid of it, and are making these strides to flip the script, that’s all you can ask for.”
Kamara added that Wallace’s decision to speak out at such a pivotal time could influence other drivers to also take a stand and bring about further change in the sport.
“I’m just going to be honest and say it gives some of these white drivers, who are predominant in the sport, a platform for them to be like, ‘You know what? I know it’s been wrong this whole time. Let me say the right thing now,'” Kamara said, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. “Maybe before they weren’t comfortable to say it.”
Obviously, the history surrounding the racist symbol invokes hundreds of years worth of anger and discomfort, something Kamara — a native of Norcross, Georgia and former college athlete at Alabama and Tennessee — has an added level of exposure to.
Wallace forcing NASCAR to look beyond its famous checkered flag and address its checkered past was an important moment that represented the type of change that needs to happen in America. The flag’s removal opens the door for people, like Kamara, who have interest in the sport but felt alienated to learn more about it; hopefully it will signify a shift in social consciousness in more ways than one.
“I know he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders being the only African-American driver with what’s going on and what the climate of the world is right now, and taking a stand,” Kamara said. “He’s backed into a corner right now and it takes a lot of courage to be in the place that he’s in and still say, You know what? I’m going to stand up for what’s right instead of just being quiet and I commend him on that. It takes a lot of bravery. It takes being comfortable in your skin to be able to do something like that.”