Leader of group that flew Confederate flag over Talladega wrongly says NASCAR infringed on the First Amendment

The leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans needs to reread the Bill of Rights.

The group is claiming responsibility for hiring a plane to fly a Confederate flag and a banner that said “Defund NASCAR” over Talladega on Sunday. It was the first race at the Alabama track since NASCAR banned fans from flying the Confederate flag at track properties.

NASCAR is a private company. It has the absolute right to prohibit certain items at its tracks. Yet Paul Gramling tried to tell the Columbia Daily Herald that NASCAR was infringing on the First Amendment rights of fans by banning the flag.

Who wants to tell Gramling that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private company prohibitions? From the Daily Herald:

“NASCAR’s banning the display of the Confederate battle flag by its fans is nothing less than trampling upon Southerners’ First Amendment Right of free expression,” Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander in Chief Paul C. Gramling Jr. said. “This un-American act shall not go unchallenged. [On Sunday], members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Confederate Air Force displayed its disapproval of NASCAR’s trampling upon the First Amendment Rights of Southerners. During and before the start of the NASCAR race in Talladega, Alabama, our plane flew a banner announcing a drive to ‘defund NASCAR.’

“It is the hope of the Sons of Confederate Veterans that NASCAR fans will be allowed the fundamental American right of displaying pride in their family and heritage. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is proud of the diversity of the Confederate military and our modern Southland. We believe NASCAR’s slandering of our Southern heritage only further divides our nation. The Sons of Confederate Veterans will continue to defend not only our right but the Right of all Americans to celebrate their heritage. We trust NASCAR will do the same.”

There’s something hilariously bizarre about the leader of a group honoring the heritage of those who fought against the United States saying that something clearly allowed by law and the U.S. Constitution is “un-American.” Even the mayor of Columbia, Tennessee, Chaz Molder, made sure to point out how NASCAR was not violating the group’s constitutional rights and that the group “does not represent Columbia. Period.”

It’s also unclear how, exactly, NASCAR could be “defunded.” Since it’s, you know, a private company and not a public entity. The only way that defunding NASCAR could happen is if its television contracts were canceled by Fox and NBC, and sponsors started pulling out of the series. That’s not going to happen. Hell, NASCAR wouldn’t have taken the steps to ban the Confederate flag if it didn’t think that the move would be a net positive to attract new viewers and corporate sponsors.

The group has tried to sponsor a NASCAR car in the past, but NASCAR said no. NASCAR has not allowed the use of the Confederate flag in official capacities for decades and this month’s ban comes five years after the sanctioning body simply requested fans not to fly the flag at tracks. That request happened after a white supremacist killed nine parishioners at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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