By admin | February 28, 2013
By Richard Allen
In a piece posted earlier on this website, I stated that NASCAR may very well have been right to not publish whatever it was that Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements said that resulted in him receiving an indefinite suspension from the sanctioning body. I still stand by that statement as it would do no one any good to say again something that should have never been said in the first place.
But I also said in that piece that I would be willing to call out NASCAR if information came to light that was deemed worthy of criticism.
Well, as the situation continues to play out, one revelation has come out that has a disturbing feel about it. Originally, because of the wording of Clements’ statement posted on Facebook in which he offered an apology, I and many others believed that the ill advised comment was made during the course of an interview with a reporter that was intended for later use in a story.(That Facebook statement can be found within the column linked above.)
However, after Clements spoke with ESPN.com, it appears as if there was no interview taking place. According to the report offered by Marty Smith, Clements was assisting a female NASCAR employee and a reporter from MTV through the garage area. In the course of their walk, the driver and the reporter engaged in a conversation that was not being taped, filmed or transcribed. In other words, it was little more than a private conversation. It was at that time when Clements made the remark in question.
While under no circumstances can racial slurs or other derogatory language be condoned, there is a line somewhere between private conversation and being on the record publicly. To be suspended indefinitely for a comment that was made off the record seems rather harsh.
After this new information came to light, the severity of the penalty is almost taking on a Carl Long sort of feel. By that, I am referring to an instance in 2009 when owner/driver Carl Long was hammered with one of the heaviest penalties in NASCAR history($200,000, 12 races and 200 points) after it was discovered that the engine he had used during the Sprint All Star weekend in Charlotte measured 358.17 cubic inches when 358.00 cubic inches is the stated tolerance. That’s right, all of those penalties for being 0.17ci over the limit.
That instance gave off the appearance of NASCAR coming down hard on a small player as a way of sending a message to the bigger players who might have been playing fast and loose with the rulebook. That may not have been what happened at all, but it had that feel about it.
In the Clements case, there is also the feel of a message being delivered by NASCAR to the bigger players by way of a harsh penalty handed down to a lesser name. Again, this may not be what is happening, but it just feels that way.
Consider that this suspension came just days after Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski revealed his “vision” for the sport in an interview with Nate Ryan of USAToday. The driver’s ”vision” did not seem to mesh with that of the NASCAR hierarchy and the champ was called in for conferences with Brian and Lesa France as a result.
Could it be that the Clements suspension was a way of issuing a warning to anyone else who might want to speak their mind? In other words, NASCAR may have just served notice that free speech isn’t always free.
As a teacher in a public high school, I would call down a student who I might overhear using inappropriate language within a private conversation. If he/she continued with that behavior after the warning, further action would be taken. It seems as if Clements bypassed the warning and went straight to prison.
For saying something inappropriate and distasteful in front of a NASCAR employee and a reporter who likely has little understanding of the sport, Jeremy Clements probably should have been fined and put on probation. Instead, it seems as if he was “Carl Longed”.
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