NASCAR continues its goal to make the sport more inclusive. With the help of the community, the sport is moving a lot quicker than they might have planned.
This past Sunday, the auto racing league had a virtual performance of the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as is the tradition of the race. This time, the guest musician, played the introduction of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and created a surprise mash-up.
The race in Pocono was one of the first since a noose was found hanging in the garage of the Black racer, Bubba Wallace. The FBI investigation into the incident found video evidence that the noose had been hanging in the garage since last year.
Saxophonist Mike Phillips and Keyboardist, West Byrd, were tasked to play the anthem.
As racers stood with their hands over their hearts, prepared to salute ‘Old Glory,’ Byrd unbeknownst to those gathered started playing the first 16 beats of the Black national anthem on his keyboard. As if engaged in a perfect melting pot of cultures, Phillips joined in the song, playing the official anthem as it is usually played at sporting events. Byrd ended the rendition with the beloved song penned by James Weldon Johnson in 1900.
On his sax, Phillips was masterful as he played the melody of “Star-Spangled Banner,” extending the horn’s notes for dramatic effect. The rendition was as beautiful, as it was revolutionary. Even Fox called the performance, “incredible.” Video footage of the performance was posted on Twitter.
That was incredible. Legendary saxophonist @m_dot_philly performs our national anthem.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 28, 2020
One Twitter user remarked at the strides NASCAR has appeared to have taken to make their sport more inclusive for all, saying the racing league went from “events littered with Confederate flags to Lift Every Voice and Sing in 30 days.”
NASCAR went from having their events littered with confederate flags to playing lift every voice and sing in a span of less than 30 days…. pic.twitter.com/5W6ariElaI
— none (@ejayjones49) June 28, 2020
Others just clowned the racing culture for appearing clueless that the anthem had been hijacked.
Look closely at my man’s face on the keyboard, he’s definitely playing the “F@&k Dixie” version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as the prelude to the #NASCAR National Anthem.
James Weldon Johnson right now: ”I see you brother!” https://t.co/VEJX0zgMKO
— Hasan Kwame Jeffries (@ProfJeffries) June 29, 2020
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod https://t.co/CRQE0H4NCf
— Lenny Duncan (@lennyaduncan) June 29, 2020
Earlier this month, the sport hired Brandon Thompson to the newly created position of Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion. He will lead the sanctioning body’s strategy for diversity and inclusion, as well as programs and initiatives designed to enhance diversity across the NASCAR industry.
Thompson, a Black man, reports to Jill Gregory Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing and Content Officer.
“Brandon is an established and well-respected leader in our sport who will help NASCAR realize its vision in creating a more diverse industry,” said Gregory. “This new position and Brandon’s appointment reinforces our steadfast commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for our fans, industry, and employees.”
Despite the hiring, it is not clear if Thompson planned the remix as a diversity effort or had anything to do with the selection of the musicians. NASCAR has not issued a statement or even mentioned it on their social media outlets.
Perhaps, it was just another one of those moments signifying a change has come.
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