I will start off by saying this: Jeremy Clements is a good competitor, on and off the track. Week in and week out, he and his family-owned team work their tails off trying to be competitive in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Since Jeremy and JCR have been full-time in the NNS, dating back to 2011, the team has racked up two top-10 finishes, both occurring last year. I’ve been patiently waiting for Jeremy to catch a break and get his name out to the NASCAR community. Even for regular NASCAR fans, the name Jeremy Clements does not ring a bell. Unfortunately, this week I got my wish.
On Thursday, it was announced that Clements was suspended for at least two races from NASCAR competition due to an “intolerable” remark in an interview shortly before the start of the Nationwide Series race at Daytona. Shortly after I heard about the initial suspension, there was a flurry of media speculation as to what exactly Clements had said. At first, reporters, such as Jeff Gluck, wondered if Clements was in trouble for his tweet that claimed that the Daytona 500 was “boring”. Others thought it might have been his claim that Danica Patrick’s Daytona pole was “fixed”. Eventually, the news that Clements’ troublesome remark was racial got out, and the man who allegedly interviewed Clements, Marty Beckerman from MTV, revealed that Clements’ comment had involved the “n-word”.
This whole situation has reached beyond the walls of the NASCAR community. Twitter has figuratively exploded with people, both fans and non-fans, expressing their displeasure with Clements, their displeasure with NASCAR, or their displeasure with Beckerman for “ratting out Clements”. The reality, however, is that this situation is ultimately too complex to finger-pointing. For one, the claim that Beckerman ‘outed’ Clements in order to further his fame is completely ridiculous. He claimed in an interview this past week that he did not expect this story to reach the national level, and it’s unlikely that he’s lying. The fact that there was another NASCAR media member with Beckerman meant that he had little choice but to tell NASCAR what happened. It’s unfair to blame Beckerman for this whole ordeal.
Secondly, I don’t think we should be strictly bashing Clements either. Yes, he used the n-word, and it is true that this should not be allowed anywhere. Although the exact words he said were not released, more likely than not he used a variation on the word “jerry-rigged”. This is simply speculation, but some sources say this is the term he used. Clements admitted his mistake and genuinely feels awful about what happened. I have never personally met Clements, but from what I know he is a great guy on and off the track. Unfortunately, due to the fact that not many people are familiar with his name, let alone his persona, this incident has put his image into general question. If it was a slip, it is possible that he has used this term before, and although he claims it was not directed at anyone, racial slips are unacceptable. As I said, Clements is a good person, and I hope from what has transpired that he, along with others who use similar words, will learn that there is no room anywhere for racist remarks.
Finally, I don’t think we should criticize NASCAR’s decision. Clements admitted to making a racial remark, and although it’s arguable whether a suspension was warranted, NASCAR acted appropriately. Racial remarks should not be tolerated anywhere, especially at internationally televised sporting events. There is a stigma attached to the people who both watch and participate in NASCAR. Sarcastic tweets engulfed Twitter this week saying things along the lines of, “A NASCAR driver said something racist. In other news the sky is blue”. For a lot of non-NASCAR fans, this news did not come as a surprise. NASCAR, however, is working towards getting rid of this stigma. The Clements situation only hurts this effort, regardless of whether Clements’ comment was a mistake or intentional. This situation is extremely unfortunate for Clements as he and his family team try every week to make it to the track without much sponsorship, but NASCAR had little to no choice but to act as it did.
In conclusion, I think there is a lot that can be learned from this situation. Dale Jr. came out this week and said, “there’s no room for that in [his] life. … When one person’s mistake looks bad on the sport, it’s unfortunate.” It took a lot of courage and maturity for Clements to man up to this mistake, and as Dale Jr. said, it is unfortunate because it makes NASCAR look really bad. Hopefully, this will help everyone involved in NASCAR, whether they are weekly participants or casual fans, understand that racial slurs and racist behavior are unacceptable. NASCAR has come a long way in recent years, and hopefully they can grow from this experience. In the meantime, I wish Clements and his team the best of luck in these next difficult weeks, and I look forward to having him back on the track.