Gun deal­ers set­ting sights on NASCAR

2 tell of as­sault-weapon ads get­ting re­jected, claim fan base not be­ing con­sid­ered

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By God­win Kelly

DAY­TONA BEACH — NASCAR is be­ing ac­cused by at least two firearms sell­ers of re­ject­ing as­sault-style weapons ad­ver­tis­ing, leav­ing those com­pa­nies, and the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, won­der­ing if the stock-car racing league has turned its back on part of its fan base with a po­si­tion shift on guns.

One out­spo­ken gun dealer who said his ad­ver­tise­ment was re­jected has crit­i­cized NASCAR on his blog and says he be­lieves fans won’t stand for poli­cies that dis­crim­i­nate against cer­tain weapons in their pub­li­ca­tions.

NASCAR de­clined to re­spond to in­quiries and Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way of­fi­cials had no com­ment for this story.

The story tracks back to April when a com­pany, Na­tional Event Pub­li­ca­tions, was so­lic­it­ing gun mak­ers and dis­trib­u­tors to run ad­ver­tise­ments in me­dia out­lets li­censed by NASCAR. One of those com­pa­nies was K-Var Corp., an in­ter­net gun seller based in Las Ve­gas, which ac­cepted the terms of an agree­ment and sub­mit­ted an ad­ver­tise­ment for a NASCAR pub­li­ca­tion in April. The an­swer he got back from the ad agency a few months later was un­ex­pected.

Ac­cord­ing to K-Var gen­eral man­ager David Dol­bee, NASCAR, via Na­tional Event Pub­li­ca­tions, re­jected the com­pany’s ad­ver­tise­ment fea­tur­ing an AK-47 ri­fle. Dol­bee said any bias to­ward a le­gal weapon is a spark for Sec­ond Amend­ment ad­vo­cates.

“I wanted to tell NASCAR that this sit­u­a­tion will blow [up] and that this com­mu­nity will re­spond,” he said in a phone in­ter­view. “I wanted to tell them a lot of the Sec­ond Amend­ment com­mu­nity is your fan base. You can’t just flip a fil­ter on. You can’t say ‘This gun is good and that gun is bad,’ ”

Dol­bee hasn’t been able to talk to any­one at NASCAR.

The ad was go­ing to be placed in a NASCAR-li­censed sou­venir pro­gram. The pub­li­ca­tions are given away at NASCAR racing events, distribute­d at the Spe­cialty Equip­ment Mar­ket As­so­ci­a­tion Show in Las Ve­gas and emailed to 5 mil­lion NASCAR fans at the end of racing sea­son in Novem­ber.

Af­ter hear­ing the pitch from Na­tional Event Pub­li­ca­tions, Dol­bee said he agreed to pay $10,000 for a gun ad­ver­tise­ment for the NASCAR-li­censed sou­venir pro­gram.

“We fig­ured that would be great pub­lic­ity for us with a NASCAR cross­over au­di­ence, so I went ahead and took out an ad,” Dol­bee said.

NASCAR is head­quar­tered in Day­tona Beach and its fan base leans heav­ily to­ward con­ser­va­tive val­ues, in­clud­ing gun-own­er­ship rights. For­mer NASCAR Chair­man and CEO Brian France per­son­ally en­dorsed Don­ald Trump when Trump, an NRA sup­porter, was the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent in 2016.

NASCAR main­tains close ties to with two re­tail chains that sell semi­au­to­matic weapons. Gan­der Outdoors spon­sors the NASCAR Truck Series, while Bass Pro Shops spon­sors stock cars at Richard Chil­dress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.

The NRA spon­sored a Cup Series race at Bris­tol Mo­tor Speed­way on Aug. 17, where the win­ning NASCAR driv­ers at Texas Mo­tor Speed­way cel­e­brate by fir­ing blanks into the air from two West­ern-style six shoot­ers.

Dol­bee said he posted the re­jec­tion lan­guage ver­ba­tim on his K-Var blog.

Ac­cord­ing to Dol­bee the no­tice from the ad agency read: “We just heard from NASCAR on a num­ber of gun­re­lated ads and un­for­tu­nately, due to a grad­ual shift in NASCAR’s po­si­tion on guns, these ads must be edited/ changed — es­pe­cially those that are de­picted as as­sault-style ri­fles/sniper ri­fles. NASCAR is still open to some of the less con­tro­ver­sial gun ac­ces­sories, con­cealed carry or classes.”

Na­tional Event Pub­li­ca­tions did not re­turn phone mes­sages. The agency so­lic­its var­i­ous com­pa­nies for ad­ver­tis­ing on be­half of pro­fes­sional sports leagues and larger col­lege pro­grams.

Dol­bee said the agency told him K-Var could sub­mit an­other ad­ver­tise­ment in a 24-hour win­dow, but it couldn’t “show any weapon they con­sid­ered an as­sault-style knife or ri­fle.”

Dol­bee in­cluded a copy of the re­jected ad­ver­tise­ment with his blog post. It has front and rear pho­tos of a bearded man wear­ing a bul­let­proof vest. The rear photo has an AK-47 slung over the man’s shoul­der. The front photo shows the same man hold­ing a 9 mm hand­gun in one hand and a knife in the other.

Dol­bee, 51, who said he served in the First Gulf War, is a Sec­ond Amend­ment ad­vo­cate and promised “this story won’t go away.” He plans to use his blog as a bull­horn for gun rights and has con­tacted sev­eral NASCAR spon­sors.

A com­pany like Dol­bee’s re­ported a sim­i­lar ad­ver­tis­ing re­jec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Free Bea­con, Dark Storm In­dus­tries sub­mit­ted an ad fea­tur­ing an AR-15 and it was also de­clined at NASCAR’s di­rec­tion.

“NASCARde­cided to turn their back on their cus­tomer base,” Dark Storm wrote in an In­sta­gram post. “We were ap­proached by a NASCAR pub­li­ca­tion ea­ger to earn our busi­ness, but af­ter sub­mit­ting our ad, it was im­me­di­ately re­jected, stat­ing that we can­not de­pict ‘as­sault weapons.’ ”

The new phi­los­o­phy ap­par­ently isn’t a blan­ket ”no gun“ad­ver­tis­ing pol­icy by NASCAR. Sev­eral gun ads are fea­tured in cur­rent NASCAR-li­censed pub­li­ca­tions and web­sites such as ROAR! and Pole Po­si­tion.

Texas Mo­tor Speed­way Pres­i­dent Ed­die Gos­sage said he was aware of the con­tro­versy. The track where guns are fired af­ter the race is owned by Speed­way Mo­tor­sports Inc. and hosts two Cup Series races each year.

“I can’t speak to what NASCAR would or would not al­low, but I haven’t been no­ti­fied by any­one at NASCAR about a change in their po­si­tion,” Gos­sage said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

“Our six shoot­ers in Vic­tory Lane? I equate that to the mus­kets at New Eng­land Patriots games; when New Eng­land scores, these Min­ute­men step out into the end zone and fire blanks into the air. Our six shoot­ers put an Old West slant on our cel­e­bra­tions.”

The NRA has made its po­si­tion clear on this mat­ter. It weighed in with this on­line post:

“It is not clear if NASCAR is now tak­ing an of­fi­cial po­si­tion in op­po­si­tion to semi-au­to­matic ri­fles — with the AR-15 vari­ants of­ten re­ferred to as Amer­ica’s Ri­fle — and bolt ac­tion ri­fles. What does seem clear, how­ever, is that NASCAR doesn’t want to see such things ad­ver­tised in its of­fi­cial pub­li­ca­tion in the fu­ture: a de­ci­sion that could eas­ily alien­ate a great many of its most ar­dent fans.” 2019 The News-Jour­nal, Day­tona Beach, Fla. Visit The News-Jour­nal, Day­tona Beach, Fla. at www.news-jour­nalon­line.com Distribute­d by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency, LLC.

DAVID J. GRIFFIN/ICON SPORTSWIRE/ZUMA PRESS/TNS

NASCAR is be­ing ac­cused by at least two firearms sell­ers of re­ject­ing as­sault­style weapons ad­ver­tis­ing and per­haps turn­ing its back on part of its fan base.

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