Like any big business, NASCAR not immune from big problems
Big business and big problems sometimes go hand in hand in 2008 corporate America. And NASCAR has a potential doozy on its hands with the $225 million lawsuit alleging sexual and racial harassment, writes David Newton.
Updated: June 14, 2008, 6:31 PM ETBy David Newton | ESPN.com
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Television cameras will focus on drivers standing next to their wives or girlfriends on pit road prior to Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. Some drivers, like four-time champion Jeff Gordon, may be holding a child.This is the image NASCAR wants the public to see. The governing body goes out of its way to portray itself as family-oriented. Wholesome. God-fearing. It is.And it is not. The $225 million lawsuit for sexual and racial harassment that former Nationwide Series official Mauricia Grant filed on Tuesday -- whether true or not -- shows the sport is not immune to the same problems other sports and corporations face.There is a dark side in the garage, just as there is a dark side in the corporations that proudly splash their names on the hoods of cars. The improper behavior that gets publicized with fines and points penalties goes well beyond crew chiefs and drivers trying to get a competitive edge. Anybody who believes otherwise has his or her head buried in the sand."It shows it is a corporation," Kyle Petty said of the lawsuit. "We've always operated under the assumption we are a sport. Wake up, people. We are not a sport anymore."No, NASCAR is big business.And it is not immune from the problems one commonly sees from Wall Street to Wrigley Field."You're not going to be immune, whether it's sexual harassment or discrimination or whistle-blowers," Petty said. "There's incidents like this that happen and they're true. There's incidents like this that happen because the person took the job to set the company up. You don't know what anybody's motives are on anything anymore. "That's the scary part. It was OK when it was all family, and there was only two inspectors and Mr. France taking all the money and Big Bill doing all of this. That was pretty simple to control. But they've got hundreds of thousands of employees all over the country. They can't be everywhere else."You can't blame NASCAR when an employee or employees get out of line anymore than you can blame the NBA for having a renegade referee."All I can say is, it's a different time and different world," team owner Richard Childress said. "It is a family sport. But the thing about it is, you can't always be responsible for your family members."That some drivers in the garage say they are shocked by Grant's allegations is like a crew chief saying he is shocked when NASCAR catches him for a rules infraction."How can they be shocked?" Petty said. "What world do they live in? What world did you live in to be shocked, where it wasn't that long ago we didn't even allow women in the garage area?
All I can say is, it's a different time and different world. It is a family sport. But the thing about it is, you can't always be responsible for your family members.
-- Richard Childress
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