Nascar Appoints First Diversity Chief After Confederate Flag Controversy

Brandon Thompson is the first graduate of Nascar's diversity internship to move up to executive level

brandon thompson
Nascar has appointed its first diversity executive just days after another driver quit over the sport's new Confederate flag ban. Nascar
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Nascar has appointed its first diversity and inclusion lead, Brandon Thompson, who was formerly managing director of the Nascar Touring Series. He will step into the new role overseeing industrywide D&I strategy.

“Nascar has made significant progress in the areas of diversity and inclusion, and we now have an opportunity to build on our momentum—both as a company and industry,”  Thompson said in a statement. “It is with great passion and energy that we will champion our sport as accepting and welcoming of all individuals interested in being part of the NASCAR family.”

Thompson’s team includes Dawn Harris, who has been named managing director of diversity and inclusion, working to develop and maintain relationships with national and local civic groups.

The diversity and inclusion team oversees Nascar’s Drive for Diversity Program, as well as strategic alliances with the Institute for Sport and Social Justice and the Diversity and Inclusion Sports Consortium.

The appointment of the sports brand’s first D&I chief comes on the heels of recent controversy. On June 10, Nascar announced a ban on Confederate flags at its events after Darrell Wallace Jr., the first Black driver in 50 years to win one of Nascar’s top three national touring series, called on the racing league to ban them.

Nascar had “discouraged” Confederate flags in 2015 after white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine Black churchgoers in South Carolina. But the flag was still prevalent and popular at Nascar events.

After the league banned the flag last week, driver Ray Ciccarelli said he would not return to the sport after the 2020 season. Ciccarelli said in a Facebook post that he doesn’t “believe in kneeling during [the] anthem” and that flying the Confederate flag “doesn’t make [someone] a racist.”

Thompson joined Nascar in 2003 as member of Nascar’s diversity internship program, and has now become its first graduate to join the company’s executive ranks. He will report to Jill Gregory, evp and CMO.

“Brandon is an established and well-respected leader in our sport who will help NASCAR realize its vision in creating a more diverse industry,” Gregory said in a statement. “This new position and Brandon’s appointment reinforces our steadfast commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for our fans, industry and employees.”

@MaryEmilyOHara Mary Emily O'Hara is a diversity and inclusion reporter. They specialize in covering LGBTQ+ issues and other underrepresented communities.