30 May 2004 Magic Needs to Conjure Some Sponsors
NCPPR executive director David W. Almasi reminds us that a black face is less valuable than green dollars when it comes to integrating auto racing:
Former basketball star turned businessman/investor Magic Johnson is the newest black face in auto racing after the announcement that he will co-chair the Executive Steering Committee of NASCAR’s “Drive for Diversity” program. The program seeks to recruit minority drivers and race crew members as well as draw more minority fans to the sport. Last year, NASCAR stopped giving unrestricted donations — thought to total near $250,000 — to Jesse Jackson after The National Center’s Project 21 African-American leadership network and the National Legal and Policy Center exposed Jackson’s apparent hustling of NASCAR for money while doing little more for the sport than raising the level minority animosity toward it.
It’s great that high-profile African-Americans such as Johnson and former football star Reggie White are involved in trying to diversify what has thus far been a sport that largely attracts white fans and participants. It’s also great to have corporate support for NASCAR’s diversity program. But the real support is needed in the bank accounts of minority drivers. It costs millions to race, and NASCAR cannot provide that money. Corporate sponsors need to get behind good minority drivers if the sport is to be truly diversified.
While Johnson should be congratulated for helping raise the profile of these NASCAR’s diversity efforts, the unsung heroes are Domino’s, Sunoco, Miller Brewing, the National Guard, Kodak, Lowe’s MBNA and Centrix. These are that companies that are already supporting minority drivers. Dominos, in particular, is supporting all four drivers currently enrolled in the “Drive for Diversity” program. Way to go!