Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s viewpoint that the Confederate flag is offensive has not wavered over the years, and NASCAR's most popular driver again left no room for interpretation speaking Friday at Sonoma Raceway.
"I think it's offensive to an entire race," Earnhardt said. "It belongs in the history books and that's about it."
This was not the first time Earnhardt was critical of the Confederate flag. In his 2001 autobiography, he said the flag "represents closed-minded, racist views that have no place in today's society." And Earnhardt in a 2006 interview with Yahoo! Sports said, "I don't know [if] what that flag stands for is the same for me as it is the guy who might have it flying out there."
Debate about the Confederate flag, often used symbolically by white supremacy groups, has come under intense condemnation following the shooting deaths of nine African-Americans by a white gunman inside a Charleston, S.C., church last week. Dylann Storm Roof, the alleged killer, has been seen in photographs posing with a Confederate flag promoting racist viewpoints.
In response to the slayings, several states have either already removed Confederate flags from public areas or debating doing so. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the flag to be taken down outside its statehouse on Monday, while Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordered the removal of four flags from a State Capital memorial on Wednesday.
Use of the Confederate flag is still frequent in the south among the states that formed the Confederacy during the Civil War and is a common site at NASCAR races with many spectators flying the flag on top of motor homes stationed in the infield.
NASCAR issued a statement in support of Haley's decision Tuesday. The sanctioning body already prohibits the sale of any merchandise bearing the Confederate flag at its races.
However, NASCAR does not have an outright ban on fans displaying the flag within its tracks. NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France cited free speech as the reason why fans could continue flying the flag in an interview with 60 Minutes in 2005.
"(Hendrick Motorsports) have eliminated the ability to use it in anyway or it show up in any of the things that we are involved with," Jeff Gordon said Friday. "I think that is the stance I see that NASCAR has taken and have had that stance for several years. To me, I'm in support of what they are doing. It's a delicate balance. We race all over, but the South is an area where we have a lot of fans. Everyone has different opinions and expression of that.
"I support NASCAR and the stance that they are taking."