On Monday, NBC’s Today went hard after the sport of NASCAR and its millions of fans as they teed up new race team co-owner Michael Jordan to lament that the sport has represented “the teeth of racism” with his driver Bubba Wallace facing — as per their insinuations — a racist double standard because he faces boos when introduced to crowds.
And then hours later on MSNBC, sportswriter Bill Rhoden boasted that Jordan’s 23XI Racing was part of the NBA legend’s “war on racism” against “one of the most institutionalized racist sports organizations in America.”
Today co-host Craig Melvin sat down with Jordan and 23XI co-owner/current NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin on what he said was “their push to change the face of NASCAR” following Wallace’s win in the (rain-shortened) October 4 race in Talladega. In doing so, Wallace was the first black driver to win a NASCAR race since the late Wendell Scott in 1963.
Jordan has been a NASCAR fan for decades, but he’s now plunged his fortune into a sport consisting of men and women who are “the teeth of racism”:
MELVIN: The challenge of entering the sport with little diversity and where the Confederate flags has been commonplace for decades was one Jordan was willing to take head on.
JORDAN: When I dove to get involved in NASCAR, I knew I was diving into the teeth of racism. Knew it. Been there. Experienced it, but I wasn't afraid of it. I was — I was looking forward to the challenge.
Rewinding to the beginning, the interview started with the emotions of Jordan and Hamlin in seeing their driver have their dream come true and then how Jordan felt to see a black man achieve something that the Basketball Hall of Famer said was “very rare” and “inspir[ing]” that makes him want to see “other Bubba Wallace’s winning.”
Ignoring the much-maligned June 2020 incident at Talladega involving what Wallace and his then-team falsely claimed was a noose, Melvin fretted: “Bubba Wallace goes to racetracks and he gets booed. Why do you think that is in 2021?”
Neither brought up the facts (and things like a Don Lemon interview) that lost Wallace support in the fan base, so Jordan moved right along by talking about how “[t]his sport is — needs to change and it has started the progress of changing,” but Wallace “has to dig within himself” to achieve glory.
These comments came despite the fact that, in addition Melvin’s wife Lindsay Czarniak having been a longtime sportscaster covering NASCAR, NBC has had full TV rights to the second half of NASCAR’s top two series since 2015 following a stint from 2001 to 2006 (with select broadcasts dating back to the 1970s).
Just over four hours later on MSNBC, Melvin reaired the interview and brought in Rhoden for reaction, who proceeded to slam NASCAR as one of “the most...racist sports” in the country and praised Jordan for spending money to fight people who oppose black people in “the war against racism” (click “expand”):
MELVIN: You know, he's the first black principal team owner, as you know, in a sport — in that sport in almost half a decade. Just heard him say that he knew he was “entering the teeth of racism.” How does Michael Jordan change the culture of — of NASCAR, or can even Michael Jordan do that?
RHODEN: Yeah, well, you know, the great thing about everything he said is that, you know, Michael Jordan is announcing that he's joining the war against racism. He's doing it in a very public way. He's using his resources. He's using his visibility, and he's doing it through the prism of — of NASCAR, which is probably one of the most institutionalized racist sports organizations in America. And the great thing, Craig, about what he — what he says, he's introduced people to Wendell Scott. You know, in history, we say he’s the first black man since Wendell Scott, what I'm encouraging people watching the interview do is go back and check out Wendell Scott and everything he went through. You know, remember 1963 is when Wendell Scott became the first African-American to win NASCAR. And you look at 1963, Craig, you had the girls murdered in Birmingham at the blast of Birmingham. You had Medgar Evers murdered. You had George Wallace, the racist governor of Alabama, said the University of Alabama will never be integrated cause all you got to do is look at Alabama football and see how that's gone. You know, and — and the most important thing about '63, that's when Michael Jordan was born and — and there were people in '63 who never thought a young black kid would be a billionaire and own an NBA team and so I think that when Jordan talks about — and I thought it was so revealing when he talks about the struggle. When you look back at people like Wendell Scott and — and — and when you look for Bubba Smith [sic], our existence and survival and problems in this country has been about tenacity. It's been about commitment, and it's been about, you know, with Jordan, using your resources to join this war. So I just thought that just that brief interview with Jordan basically said, hey, I'm joining this war on racism, and I just think it's really fantastic.
Later, Rhoden careened off the edge in declaring America to be no more than “the white folks’ playground” and it was about time Jordan stood up to racism because, “no matter” your fortune or position, “racism is going to find you” and/or “somebody you love.”
And tells us again how the real paranoids are at Fox News.
These smears against the sport they pay billions to air and promote and its millions of fans was made possible thanks to the support of advertisers such as Colgate (on NBC), Discover (on MSNBC), Progressive (on NBC), Safelite Auto Glass (on MSNBC), and State Farm (on NBC). Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.
To see the relevant MSNBC and NBC transcripts from October 11, click here.