In a world full of a “ready, fire, aim” analysis, the rhetoric on social media dials up to “11” whenever the topic touches on politics. Thus, it’s best to remember this before aiming the flamethrower at one side or the other: None of the “Let’s go Brandon” brouhaha is the fault of NASCAR driver Brandon Brown.
None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Having said that, Brown is no longer a victim in this mess.
Brandon Brown has embraced a deal rooted in ‘Let’s go Brandon’
Less than two weeks after expressing frustration over his inability to line up sponsors for the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series, Brandon Brown has accepted a potentially lucrative deal that reminds the country how he landed in such a predicament in the first place.
The 28-year-old driver revealed Thursday that his Chevy Camaro will compete in the upcoming season under the sponsorship of LGBCoin, a cryptocurrency trying to leverage the popularity of what has become an anti-Joe Biden battle cry, Fox Business reported.
Literally overnight, “Let’s go Brandon” became the polite version of “F*** Joe Biden,” the phrase race fans chanted at Talladega as NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast spoke with Brown on the air following his surprising first victory in 114 Xfinity starts. In the midst of the interview, Stavast tried telling viewers that the chant in the background was, “Let’s go Brandon.”
That qualified her as the only person in America who didn’t know the crowd was the latest gathering of citizens expressing displeasure with Biden, presumably over his handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the ongoing immigrant crisis at the Mexican border, policies related to the pandemic and the economy, and various other issues that have sent the president’s popularity numbers underwater.
Brandon Brown teaming with LGBcoin poses a problem for NASCAR
Brandon Brown’s revelation of a sponsorship agreement with LGBcoin as the year was winding down came unexpectedly. Less than two weeks earlier, the NASCAR driver told The New York Times he lacked sponsors because people associated his name with anti-Joe Biden sentiment. That was despite the fact he had nothing to do with the raunchy chant at Talladega, the NBC reporter’s misguided interpretation, or the phenomenon that “Let’s go Brandon” has become since Oct. 2.
NASCAR, its figurative nose already bloodied a year earlier in the controversy after Bubba Wallace successfully lobbied for the banning of Confederate flags at race venues and then pushed back hard against remarks by then-president Donald Trump, wanted nothing to do with the new political not topic.
“We do not want to associate ourselves with politics, the left or the right,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps said a month after Talladega. “We obviously have, and we’ve always had, as a sport tremendous respect for the office of the president no matter who is sitting.”
Now, Phelps finds himself and his sport squarely in the middle of a conundrum that would have had Solomon throwing up his arms in frustration.
NASCAR will have to walk a tightrope
Almost immediately after Brandon Brown announced that LGBcoin was sponsoring his car for the entire 2022 Xfinity Series season, a NASCAR spokesman said that the racing organization had not yet approved the deal between the driver’s team and the cryptocurrency start-up rooted in the Ethereum blockchain.
NASCAR has long enforced a policy of having the final say on sponsorships, branding, and paint schemes. This brewing controversy, though, isn’t as black-and-white as shooting down something like promotions for an adult website or drug paraphernalia. Indeed, the announcement from Brown and LGBcoin emphasizes the fledgling company’s ambition to remove the controversial connotation from “Let’s go Brandon.”
LBGcoin pointed to Brown’s perseverance and hard work.
“Brandon is truly America’s Driver,” the statement said. “We are proud to support Brandon this season, to help him continue his American dream. If we do our job right, when you think of us, and you hear, ‘Let’s go Brandon,’ you’ll think and feel, ‘Let’s Go America.’”
And therein lies the problem for NASCAR. Those with political views leaning toward the left will speak of dog whistles and the “wink, wink, nod, nod” subtleties they see (real or imagined) in the statement. Those leaning the other way can point to Brown’s right to make a living and how NASCAR and NBC inflicted potentially irreparable damage; the interview was uneventful until a reporter all but told viewers not to believe their ears.
Whatever the verdict, half the country will come away angry because that’s the way America is these days. And NASCAR must know that ruling against Brown and his sponsor will just trigger louder, more elaborate protests at tracks now that coronavirus variants and surging inflation are also part of Joe Biden’s resume.
But that doesn’t give Brown a free pass. After doing his best to distance himself from the controversy for close to three months, Brown has immersed himself in it. He may be innocent of wrongdoing, but he is no longer a victim.