It’s Diversity efforts a Bust, NASCAR must now act

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NASCAR should thank Mauricia Grant. Just write her a check – not the $225 million she wants, but something that’ll hurt a bit – and thank the woman for forcing them to come to grips with a fact they’ve been ignoring too long: Their much-talked about diversity “program” is a failure.

It’s a bust. It’s a 15-car pileup. It’s all-talk, no-drive and zippo results.

And that’s too bad.

It’s too bad because I really wanted it to work. I wanted to believe Brian France when he said years ago that the organization wanted to eradicate its good-old-white-boy network and join the 21st century. I wanted to believe him when he said NASCAR wanted the best and brightest of all flavors to work for NASCAR – and not only because the sport wanted to attract more colorful fans.

I wanted to believe him because I actually like the sport, and having been to a few races as a reporter I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t open, friendly and cooperative. From the top execs to the guys in the garage, everyone was cool.

That’s why I wanted NASCAR’s efforts to recruit people of color throughout all aspects of the sport to succeed.

But it’s failed miserably, and perhaps Grant’s ugly allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment – 57 altogether – will force France to stop talking and start doing.

It seems the program, such as it is, was ill-conceived from the start, and ill-executed every step of the way.

First off, the efforts should never have been primarily about finding black drivers. Sure, that’s the easy fix – Go get us a Tiger Woods who can make tight left turns at 225 mph, and we’ll be all right. In fact, somebody ask Tiger himself if he can drive – but it’s a false fix. Sure there’ve been barriers that have prevented a few capable African American drivers from cracking NASCAR’s top circuit and sustaining a run, and those barriers should be addressed and eliminated. But waiting for (or even trying to create) your “Tiger” is the lazy way out.

NASCAR’s efforts should have been focused on every aspect of the sport, from the executive suites to the garages – especially the garages.

Driver Jeff Burton has been quoted as saying that he wanted a garage “that is a cross section of America.” And he added: “I can honestly tell you that I’ve never spoken to anybody that doesn’t believe the same thing.”

So what have they done about it? Why are there still too few people to notice on pit crews and among the myriad officials who regulate the sport, promote the sport and communicate about the sport?

Because the diversity program doesn’t work, that’s why. It’s never been the kind of all-encompassing program that is needed to insure that people are recruited, interviewed and hired at all levels, especially in the garage.

NASCAR is dealing with some troubling issue. Even before fuel prices started to rival the cost of a compact car, television ratings were sagging, fans were staying home and the buzz that once saw NASCAR hailed as “the fastest growing sport in America” had become a snore.

Now this.

I’m not saying Grant’s allegations are true. I have no idea. But already two NASCAR officials have been suspended in connection with France’s investigation into her lawsuit.

But whether all 57 allegations or true or not, Brian, just write the check. Make this go away and get about the business of fixing the sport. Start your engine and address the core reasons why your diversity efforts have been an abysmal failure.

Do it now, and stop wishing – and waiting – on a Tiger.

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