By DAN GELSTON, AP Sports Writer
LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — President Donald Trump tweeted he was proud of NASCAR because no drivers, crew or other team members protested during the national anthem Sunday prior to a race at New Hampshire Motorspeedway.
“So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag – they said it loud and clear!” Trump tweeted Monday.
Several team owners and executives had said Sunday they wouldn’t want anyone in their organizations to protest. Richard Childress, who was Dale Earnhardt’s longtime team owner, said of protesting: “It’ll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus.”
Childress said he told his team that “anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.”
Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty’s sentiments took it a step further, saying: “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”
When asked if a protester at Richard Petty Motorsports would be fired, he said, “You’re right.”
NASCAR chairman Brian France created a firestorm in the sport when he endorsed Trump last year. France’s efforts to quell criticism over what he insisted was a “personal and private” decision were complicated by Trump’s continued mentioning of how he received “NASCAR’s endorsement.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver who will retire at the end of the season, tweeted Monday in support of peaceful protest.
“All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable-JFK,” he wrote.
After Trump drew sports into politics in an unprecedented manner, more than 200 NFL players knelt or sat on a bench or raised a fist or, in the case of most of the Pittsburgh Steelers, remained indoors as national anthems echoed through stadiums. A week ago, a half-dozen players took a stance.
But it was business as usual in NASCAR.
Another team owner, Chip Ganassi, said he supports Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s comments. Tomlin said before the Steelers played on Sunday that players would remain in the locker room and that “we’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”
Team owner Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls as coach of the Washington Redskins, said of the anthem that, “so much has been sacrificed for our country and our flag. It’s a big deal for us to honor America.”
“I’m proud of the way we’ve represented ourselves, and I’m proud of this sport, too,” Gibbs said after JGR driver Kyle Busch won at New Hampshire. “I think this sport has a certain way they look at things. I really appreciate that.”
NASCAR said 2016 champion Jimmie Johnson had not been invited to the White House for recognition as he had in the past, but that it necessarily wasn’t out of the ordinary because of the change in office.
Featured Image: AP Photo/Charles Krupa