A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
If NASCAR Wants True Diversity, Then Maybe Two Former NFL Players Could Help
SAN ANTONIO– I have a wacky idea that is so ludicrous, so off base that it could possibly be the proponent for bringing a sport that is so below the radar in the Black community that there is no daylight right now. This idea is so preposterous that I wouldn’t be surprised that it would be laughed out of existence. Yet this idea is so ‘commonly sensed’ based that not only could it work but it could be the very backbone of how to bring NASCAR into the Black community in droves and show this very skeptical community that success can be made in a sport that has traditionally been looked upon as an elitist sport both from a social and a racial existence. This idea isn’t a simple solution because it would require many forces to come together and make it happen. However the idea could work because it would be anchored with two individuals who seem to be very dedicated at being pioneers in this sport for the black community. Those two individuals are Terrence Mathis and Tim Brown.
Okay now that I have your attention let me start to put this plan into your conscious being. What I am talking about is to have two former NFL players be majority owners of their own racing teams in conjunction with a racing house that wants to be as diverse as possible. Ironically I happen to know of two racing firms that seem to be very much into having diverse racers and who truly want to see the Drive for Diversity program succeed. Those two racing names are Belnavis Racing (Roush Racing) and Nemco Racing. Now maybe these two racing names don’t ring a bell and I am not expecting anyone who is not a racing fan to know who or what these teams represent. What I do know is the following: 1) both of these teams have diversity programs that are dedicated to such a cause, and 2) the people involved want to see such diversity take place.
Tim Brown is tor form Tim Brown Racing and in conjunction with Roush Racing, try to become the first African American majority owner of a NASCAR racing team.
Brown has told the world that he is looking to become the first majority owner of a NASCAR team and has already begun the legwork for purchasing his engines and chassis components from Roush Racing. Mathis has Victory Motorsports, LLC and already has a late model NASCAR entry with Morty Buckles behind the wheel. Ironically Buckles was the Drive for Diversity driver for Belnavis Racing, the team that is intricately affiliated with Roush Racing. Since things are so tightly knit right now between Mathis’ entry and with the aspirations of Brown, why don’t the two of them help form this little consortium to take on a full season of either Busch or Nextel Racing since both these former NFL greats have the same goals? That is where my plan actually comes in because I think that with the right people in the correct positions, both Brown and Mathis could actually make history and become the first African American racing team in this sport. Yet as mentioned, there are perils with such a risky ventures like this but they can be overcome with a little ingenuity, and just down right hard work.
SEPARATE OR COLLECTIVELY, SPONSORSHIP IS VITAL
Terrence Mathis is the owner of Victory Motorsports, LLC and already racing a late model NASCAR entry on the ARCA racing circuit.
What Brown doesn’t know right now about sponsorship he should call Mathis and ask him. Better yet Brown might want to talk to someone who is in the business of this sport and find out the exact costs to run a campaign on the Nextel circuit. I was fortunate to actually have the business manager of Nemco Racing, Peter Roe, e-mail me and later tell me via a phone conversation just how expensive such a campaign is for anyone in the sport. From what Mr. Roe relayed to me, a racing team is looking at a $7 million budget per car and you need some serious sponsors for this type of venture. Mathis understands that cost as well and you can go to www.victorymotorsportsllc.com find out what the costs would be. Mathis’ website lays out a series of costs that lead up to that $7 million mark that Roe told me about.
So where would sponsorships come from on a venture like this? Well with Brown’s and Mathis’ prestige as being sound businessmen and their celebrity status in their communities respectively, what is wrong with maybe some borderline Fortune 1000 companies coming to their aid. For instance I can see a company like Symantec being one of the lead sponsors of this venture. Symantec just took over Veritas and as one of the leading software firms that have diverse employee relationships; this would be a perfect fit. Another company I see coming into the act would be Nextel’s baby brother, Boost Mobile. Nextel’s pay as you go phone service has become a major hit with the younger generation and can you imagine this company being affiliated with a race team like a Brown/Mathis merger? Other companies and even individuals could be a part of the experience as well. Urban clothing companies like Ekco, South Pole, and Phat Farm could align themselves with being on the cutting edge of coming into a totally different market share. I’ll even go so far as to bring in liquor companies. One of the companies I have looked at from afar is a Los Angeles firm that has been trying to produce a cognac for the African American consuming public. Carnivo Limited could be as prominent of a sponsor as Jack Daniels or Crown Royal is on the Nextel circuit.
Even if it the sponsorships are just infusions of cash flow, the opportunities for small minority companies trying to get into the mainstream are limitless with them if they would get behind this concept of advertising on the Nextel/Busch circuit. From where I am looking, I could see banks, retail and manufacturing companies that are owned by minorities coming into the NASCAR arena and finding a new clientele that would be very receptive to their products and services.
GETTING OVER THE MINDSET OF THE ‘GOOD OLE BOY’ SYNDROME Shedding the racial stereotypes in NASCAR is something that both Brown and Mathis will have to be prepared for whether they collaborate on being the first African American racing team in NASCAR history (that has a successful track record on the level of Roush or DEI) or whether they try to do it as two owners trying to crack into the sport. I can attest that there are still some very ignorant individuals who would rather live in their log cabins when it comes to diversity in this sport. Most recently when I wrote my first NASCAR piece about African Americans trying to come into this sport, I received some responses via e-mail that just left me floored. Such statements like “I’ve got a great idea why don’t we just let black people run everything. We won’t let white people do anything whatsoever. Black people are quite obviously the most deserving in society that’s why they are always bleating on about racism and not being given a fair chance. For Christ’s sake change the record”. Or here’s another one I received on whether Blacks need to be in this sport: “Nascar is not a sport that blacks enjoy watching anyway, face it, this sport doesn’t have a ball in it.” NASCAR fans these are the ignorant folks in your sport. The only thing I did was humane was not up their e-mails in this piece but it’s just an illustration. If I am getting such crap as a writer on this sport for a website that is geared mainly to the African American community, can you imagine the kind of rubbish Mathis and Brown will face? No one is being ignorant here but there are still racist factions in 2005 that would love to see successful Black men like these two fall and they would do anything they could to make that happen; even if it means destroying the dreams of an individual who wants to show his own community that there is room for all of us in this sport.
Then you have the Black community itself, which can be it’s own worst enemy. For any Black race team owner, the chances of getting sponsors from ‘normal’ sources is hard work but what may be moderate or lackluster success for that owner when going to conventional sponsors, black companies (some of them, not all) would not be wanting to commit sums of money to such a venture. They don’t see the long-term investment of such ventures. Then you have just your friends, family, cohorts, excreta who have nothing but negative thoughts about this venture. I am quite sure that both Mathis and Brown have their detractors who believe that they are wasting good money on something that is nothing more than a pipe dream. I can only imagine the conversations they are having with prospective sponsors who they know and have known from church, corporate or playing days. It is the fear of the unknown that these two gridiron greats will have to conquer if they want their dreams to succeed.
SERIOUS DIVERSITY NEEDS TO TAKE PLACE AT THIS LEVEL No matter what these two players come up with, as someone who is slowly getting into the sport as a fan, I am actually hoping that there is a serious ownership project put out on the Nextel circuit by either Brown or Mathis. Singularly I think they could make a big splash on the smaller circuits and they might be able to make a small dent into the NASCAR racing fraternity. I am hoping that with some help, that Mathis and Brown can help pave the way to where we have serious minority participation at all levels of this sport and that both the Hispanic and Black communities would embrace this sport just like it has embraced baseball, football and basketball.
In all seriousness the face of NASCAR has definitely changed and now that the world has changed economically, there is no excuse for a community to not back an individual who wants to venture outside of the traditional realms of acceptance. What Brown and Mathis want to attempt is something of admiration because if you talk to any NASCAR fan, they will tell you that car ownership is actually where you want to be. Brown and Mathis have the dollars to start an inroad into this process but they will need some serious help in their quests as individual owners. That is why maybe my idea of a merger between them and one or two other racing teams that are established isn’t such a bad idea. It puts them into the winner’s circle by relying on experienced individuals like Sam Belnavis but it also gives NASCAR a true spokesperson in who actually has a vital interest in the success of the diversity program. Nothing personal against Ervin Johnson but Magic doesn’t have a racecar in this fight; Mathis does and Brown will have one. For the Black community it’s all about ‘show me that it works’ before they jump into something like NASCAR.
If NASCAR truly wants to see this sport become diverse, then Tim Brown and Terrence Mathis may actually be two future owners to help them bridge some conventional and unconventional gaps that guys like Belnavis can’t reach right now. Their charisma as football players could be very beneficial to them as car owners and if they are winning, then NASCAR may have more fans from the very ethnic groups they are trying to reach. Yet this will only come if Brown and Mathis are successful owners in the sport. Maybe my crazy idea is just the talking piece that could help them get that task done or at least get others to think about doing something very similar in such a growing sport.