Racism and Sexism in NASCAR

This one hurts because my son is a huge, and I mean huge, as in very large, know ye well that fan comes from fanatic NASCAR fan. This story bears watching for me, not only for reasons of justice, but with a major NASCAR speedway mere minutes away from my home in Texas and my son, well, shall we say more than slightly happy about that, how do you participate in and financially support something where something like this, and I technically still say may be going on? Although if the findings turn out that NASCAR is facing these issues to this degree, it has a profound clean-up job on its hands.

A 32-year old Black woman named Mauricia Grant who worked for NASCAR as a technical inspector, certifying the race cars in the race cars in the Nationwide Series (one step below the Sprint Cup) is suing NASCAR for $225 million for racial and gender discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.

According to the June 11 Associated Press report posted on the NASCAR website Grant filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on June 10, citing

23 specific incidents of alleged sexual harassment and 34 specific incidents of alleged racial and gender discrimination beginning when she was hired in January 2005 through her October 2007 firing.

NASCAR claims it has a zero tolerance policy. If so, Grant’s story is completely disturbing.

From the AP report:

Grant complained numerous time to her supervisor, Joe Balash, who told her that many of her coworkers were former military guys with a rough sense of humor and that she’s just have to get used to it. Yet Balash, Grant claims also participated in the harassment:

“Does your workout include an urban obstacle course with a flat-screen TV on your back?” she claimed Balash asked her during the week of July 28, 2007, while working in Indianapolis.

The AP report list the following alleged incidents:

• Grant was forced to work outside more often than the white male officials because her supervisors believed she couldn’t sunburn because she was black.

• While riding in the backseat of her car pool at Talladega Superspeedway, co-workers told her to duck as they passed race fans. “I don’t want to start a riot when these fans see a black woman in my car,” she claims one official said.

• When packing up a dark garage at Texas Motor Speedway an official told Grant: “Keep smiling and pop your eyes out ’cause we can’t see you.”

• When she ignored advances from co-workers, Grant was accused of being gay. She also claimed co-workers questioned the sexual orientation of two other female officials.

NASCAR claims Grant was fired for poor performance, but her job reviews were positives and she was never cited for poor performance.

A piece in this week’s Sports Illustrated describe’s Grant’s lawyer as “nasty”. Perhaps so. This piece claims the suit says coworkers called Grant “Nappy-headed Mo” and made references to the KKK around her, and that two NASCAR officials exposed themselves to her.

Grant’s lawyer Benedict Morelli called NASCAR

“an old-boys’ club” that “isn’t a sophisticated operation; this is a bunch of nudniks hanging around together.”

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said that Grant never formally complained and as a result he didn’t hear any of her allegations until the lawsuit was filed. Morelli’s response:

“Mr. France, if he is being truthful that he never heard about any complaints with reference to Mauricia—I think you’re not such a good CEO,” Morelli said. “You either have set up a culture where they know you don’t want to hear about it, or you’re not telling the truth and you did hear about it, or you’re not doing your job…. It could be any of those. But the problem with those choices for NASCAR is that they all suck.”

To NASCAR’S credit they have suspended the officials who exposed themselves and they did post the AP report on their website, but it seems like they have much more to do. Again, I’m going to be following this one. Teaching your children about racism and sexism is never fun, but it’s never as hard, nowhere near as hard as having to live through it.