The Confederate flag has been banned from Sonoma Raceway since 2018, but a couple campers flew the flag this weekend anyway, and the NAACP Santa Rosa-Sonoma County branch says the response was not particularly speedy.
The Sonoma Raceway, 35 miles north of SF and formerly known as Sears Point Raceway and Infineon Raceway, has its big prominent NASCAR race Toyota/Save Mart 350 every year in June. But the track hosts all manner of racing events between June and December, from motorcycles to Formula One to semi trucks, and the culture of these things is that the races are often two- or three-day events where plenty of fans camp overnight in a designated camping and RV area across Highway 121 — which is also highly visible to all who pass by. This is standard practice at major race tracks over the country.
But the history of the NASCAR circuit, the largest money-maker in American car-racing, is badly slathered in Confederate flag and Trump-y iconography. To Sonoma Raceway’s credit, they banned any and all displays of the Confederate flag two full years before NASCAR banned the flag in 2020.
We've asked @RaceSonoma ab addressing the confederate flag at one of their races. Their website states that they don't allow confederate flags, but you can see this right by the road, 100% visible 😒— Indivisible Petaluma (@IndivisibleLuma) July 24, 2022
You can call 800-870-7223. pic.twitter.com/u7WPIRPjnP
But the track still finds itself in hot water this week, because as seen above and reported by KPIX, Confederate flags were spotted in the camping area at this past weekend’s National Hot Rod Association Sonoma Nationals. Media reports indicate there were two separate flag displays, both in the camping area, and the above-seen tweet from advocacy group Indivisible Petaluma shows one of them.
Sonoma Raceway VP of communication Jeff Motley tells the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that they’re usually “pretty good” at catching these displays, and that “we missed this one.” “It’s unfortunate that this happened,” he told the paper. “We’re very inclusive. It’s very important to us to not bring these Confederate flags in.”
The NAACP Santa Rosa-Sonoma County branch calls out what they see as a slow-footed response in the Facebook post above. “Our branch 2nd Vice-President called in with her concern on July 24th, attempted to have a solutions-based dialogue and was met with resistance from a member of the team,” the post says. “Later in the afternoon, a second call had to be made as the flag was still visible.”
“The flag continues to make an appearance, along with other symbols associated with white supremacy and domestic terrorism,” the post adds. “Sonoma Raceway must take steps to be more proactive in ensuring that camping sites are thoroughly reviewed before attendees walk to the raceway, ensuring that people of color can attend your events without fear. Without making this a priority, symbols of hate will remain visible from the road throughout the day as security waits for attendees to return to their vehicles at the close of the event.”
According to the Chronicle, there were two separate Confederate flags hoisted by campers. “While an earlier sweep resulted in one flag being removed, we regret that another campsite was unoccupied when staff went to address display of a flag in question,” the Chron quotes a statement from race officials as saying. “When the campers returned, they were immediately asked by a staff member to remove the flag, and they cooperated at once.”
The track’s current policy is that guests are asked once to remove any symbols that violate their policy, if the guest does not comply, they get a lifetime ban. According to the Press Democrat, Sonoma Raceway officials said they would “revisit the track’s four-year-old policy as a result of the incident.”
Related: Op-Ed: Which Monuments Should Come Down And What Should Replace Them? [SFist]
Image: Sonoma Raceway via Facebook