By Adam Stern, Sports Business Journal
NASCAR has formed a new diversity committee that spans the industry and has bold-faced names involved, as the sport makes another move in equality and inclusion.
The diversity, equity and inclusion committee, to be announced this week, has 15 members on board including team owner Rick Hendrick, driver Bubba Wallace, Coca-Cola’s Valerie Love, NBC Sports’ Jeff Behnke, and track executives including Sonoma’s Jill Gregory and Nashville Superspeedway’s Erik Moses.
Also on board is NASCAR President Steve Phelps, Chief Communications and Social Responsibility Officer Eric Nyquist and Brandon Thompson, vice president of diversity and inclusion.
The committee will meet quarterly, starting virtually for the first meeting in April and eventually moving to in-person once able to do so safely amid the pandemic.
|Jeff Behnke||NBC Sports|
|Julie Giese||Phoenix Raceway|
|Jill Gregory||Sonoma Raceway|
|Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing/23XI Racing|
|Rick Hendrick||Hendrick Motorsports|
|Terri Hines||Fox Sports|
|Justin Marks||Trackhouse Racing|
|Erik Moses||Nashville Superspeedway|
|Daniel Suarez||Trackhouse Racing|
|Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing|
Thompson, who has spearheaded NASCAR’s diversity efforts since he was appointed to the role last June, said the committee will help the sanctioning body take a more collective approach toward equality efforts and make that work more effective.
Thompson noted that since he started his new role, one of the first major goals was to get NASCAR’s own practices and diversity initiatives in order internally; now he’s starting to take a more external approach, working with partners and other companies.
NASCAR has started becoming more active in the diversity space after America’s social justice reckoning last year, including banning the Confederate flag and supporting Wallace as he spoke out on related issues.
In recent years, the sanctioning body has launched the Ally Council, which sees senior NASCAR executives discuss issues with diverse employees, as well as the Employee Diversity Council, which Thompson revealed is where internal discussions about banning the Confederate flag began, even before Wallace’s call to do so gained national attention. NASCAR also mandated sensitivity training for all industry members heading into the start of this season.
NASCAR’s long-running Drive For Diversity program counts Wallace, Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson among its graduate drivers. Thompson also oversees alliances with the Institute for Sport & Social Justice and the Diversity & Inclusion Sports Consortium.
Other efforts by NASCAR include forming three employee resource groups for Black, Hispanic and female workers, and forming a diversity advisory committee with Cup Series drivers. Participants include Wallace, Suarez, Tyler Reddick and Corey LaJoie.
Thompson said NASCAR is encouraged by early results it is seeing after doubling down on the diversity efforts last year, including having more diverse fans coming into the sport. NASCAR also has been ranked among the fastest growing brands among the Gen Z age group by Morning Consult.
Still, Thompson noted that the industry clearly has much more to accomplish.