Michael Jordan Taps Bubba Wallace For NASCAR Team Launch, Becomes One Of Few Black Team Owners In Sport's History
So we can expect Air Bubba to be a thing now, yes?
by Keka Araújo
September 22, 2020 at 12:36 pm
Hamlin made the announcement on his Twitter page.
"Tonight, I’m excited to announce MJ and I are starting a new, single car NASCAR Cup Series team for 2021," he wrote on Monday. "Deciding on a driver was easy – it had to be @BubbaWallace."
Jordan also shared the exciting news with a tweet.
“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners," Jordan shared in his post.
— Estee Portnoy (@esteep) September 22, 2020
“The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more," Jordan continued.
The former basketball star also mentioned that his love of racing began when he was a child growing up in North Carolina.
Jordan’s decision is another historical landmark for Black Americans in the world of NASCAR racing. Standing on the shoulders of the posthumous induction of 2015 NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott, he will become the second Black principal owner of a full-time premiere series Cup team. Scott was the first and only African-American NASCAR Hall of Famer.
According to NASCAR, Scott drove his own race car in 495 races in a career that spanned 13 years. Scott’s 1964 victory at the Jacksonville 200 is the only win by a Black driver in Cup history. His legacy also "extends to present-day with NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, the leading youth development initiative for multicultural and female drivers across the motorsport industry since 2004."
According to a statement from Nike, in June 2020, Jordan pledged $100 million over ten years toward initiatives that will combat systemic racism. Being the predominantly white sport's first Black majority-owner of a full-time race team since the 1970s doesn't seem to be a far cry from his previously stated intentions.
And Jordan is fully backed by his friend and partner, Hamlin. The premier-championship driver, who is a winner in his own right, explained the friendship which has blossomed into a partnership.
“Eleven years ago I met Michael Jordan at a then-Charlotte Bobcats game, and we became fast friends,” Hamlin explained.
“Not long after, I joined Jordan Brand as their first NASCAR athlete. Our friendship has grown over the years, and now we are ready to take it to the next level,” Hamlin said in a statement on the same Twitter post.
He also made it clear that Wallace was both he and Jordan’s choice as a driver.
“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series, and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level," the professional driver said.
“He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins, and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that," he added.
Hamlin also gave Wallace his due for being speaking out against bigotry in the racing industry.
“Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country," he added. "MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”
Wallace has been vocal about the changes that need to occur within NASCAR, including urging the racing organization to ban the confederate flag, as Blavity previously reported.
The 27-year-old racing star, who hails from Alabama and known for clapping back at trolls who attempt to antagonize him with racist vitriol, is the only Black racer in the premier-racing circuit.
I’m over hearing people say “leave politics out of NASCAR” when they are the same damn ones that were drooling over the fact of the BIGGEST political person being at the Daytona 500 this year. Same damn ones that love when the Trump car is on track..Buncha damn clowns!!???????? https://t.co/AdrrYoFxgb
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) August 28, 2020
Although Jordan isn’t the only Black owner of a NASCAR racing team, it's clear that if a change is going to happen in an industry that is predominantly white, more Black folks will have to get involved.