It was one of the very first tenets I promised myself I would ascribe to upon embarking on this journey as a sports talk radio host.
Always opine with conviction about the topics and issues that came my way, but make sure to hold my tongue and stay out of the fray when politics, race or religion were involved — even when those rather personal and potent areas might intersect with the world of sports.
To understand that credo, and to stick to it, was of the utmost importance.
And now here I am breaking that assurance with myself.
The tragic mass murder of nine African-American worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was beyond an unconscionable act. It was despicable, born and bred by hatred and jealousy. The multitude of photos displaying the alleged killer, 19-year-old Dylann Roof, posing in all his prejudiced glory with a Confederate flag, provide a powerful glimpse into that mindset.
As a result of those images and what they represent, the Confederate flag and its symbolic meaning of either White Supremacy, or Southern Pride — the interpretation is yours to make, as it is mine — is now at the center of a firestorm in South Carolina.
The very fact that the flag — incredulously — still sits on the Statehouse grounds, is of great embarrassment to Gov. Nikki Haley, who wants it taken down.
And that’s where sports rears its ugly head in to the story.
University of South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier publicly sided with Gov. Haley in wanting the flag removed. Probably a good decision if the ol’ head ball coach wants to continue recruiting successfully in the state.
The Carolina Panthers — who play in Charlotte, but train in Spartanburg — announced they have no plans to leave The Palmetto State if the flag remains on the Statehouse grounds, even though the organization “prides itself on bringing people together” and believes that “divisive symbols and actions shouldn’t stand in conflict to progress, healing and the unification of all of our citizens.”
Yeah, tell that to the nine people who were systematically slaughtered by the proud perpetrator of those “divisive symbols and actions.
But the reaction from NASCAR has proved to be the most revealing.
While issuing a statement supporting the move to take down the flag, racing’s governing body showed its true colors by refusing to ban that very same Confederate flag from being flown freely by fans during race events.
Not surprisingly, NASCAR won’t put its money where its mouth is. Banning the Confederate flag would be bad for business, and damned be those who dare to say otherwise.
NASCAR knows where it’s bread is buttered, and compromising the “traditional values” of its Southern fan base in exchange for banning a definitive symbol of racism simply wouldn’t be worth the trouble it would cause when it comes to the bottom line.
There should be one flag — and one flag only — allowed to be waved at every NASCAR race. The one that Betsy Ross purportedly first sewed together back in 1776.
NASCAR could’ve revved it’s engine loud and clear by making a gigantic social statement, and in the process done something truly heroic in banning the Stars and Bars.
Instead, it came to a screeching halt and took the coward’s way out.
Which would’ve been akin to me not wanting to discuss this sensitive issue because I once promised myself not to.
Unlike NASCAR, I’m glad I did.