Brandon Brown is the most famous race car driver in America, an incredible thing for a 28-year-old in the second-tier NASCAR Xfinity Series who has won exactly one race since moving up from the NASCAR truck series, where he was winless with only one top-10 finish in 22 races over four seasons.
It’s the one win that made Brown so famous, and it maybe would have been the same for any other driver had they won the Sparks 300 at Talladega in October. It was after that race, when NBC’s Kelli Stavast was interviewing Brown, that the crowd nearby started chanting, “fuck Joe Biden!”
Stavast tried to deflect from the situation, saying that the crowd was chanting “let’s go Brandon!” And thus one of the dumbest tropes of the last few years (and that’s saying something) began: right wingers — the same people who were so bold about “fuck your feelings” such a short time ago — started using “let’s go Brandon” as a euphemism to be able to say “fuck Joe Biden” in public.
And because we live in a particularly stupid moment in human history, the rise of this three-word euphemism then became a cryptocurrency, and last week LGBcoin became the sponsor of the No. 68 car, with a majestic and theatrical video reveal.
Maybe it’s appropriate that this took place on Knob Hill Road, because these are a bunch of absolute doorknobs who made their announcement before actually getting the sponsorship approved by NASCAR. They thought they had the green flag — er, green light, as Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass reported, because one NASCAR employee did give the go-ahead, but “NASCAR indicated that sponsorship needed approval from higher-ranking officials.”
So, someone at NASCAR liked this whole scheme (surprise), but the higher-ups, who would like their sport to appeal to people beyond the MAGAverse, gave it the thumbs down. As Pockrass wrote, NASCAR “has considered a shift in policy to restrict sponsorships that it believes are political in nature as it strives to be as least divisive as possible.”
NASCAR already has put the kibosh on Confederate flags at its events, and that loser banner has been replaced on infield trailers by more contemporary loser pennants: Trump flags. Thin Blue Line flags, too. And surely, this coming season, wastes of money and fabric to declare “Let’s go Brandon.” For a lot of people who complain “stick to sports” and rail against “virtue signaling,” it sure is a lot of politicizing sports and signaling lack of virtue.
Banning the Confederate flag, explicitly recognizable as clothbound hate speech, is a lot easier than prohibiting its vexillological descendants of the early 21st century. Without equivalent markers on the left, there’s not really a way to do it without appearing biased against the right.
And that’s what this is about: appearances. There are plenty of righties in the sport of left turns, and NASCAR’s tracks are primarily in places that are deep crimson on an electoral map, but the sport’s TV ratings are tied to being able to draw eyeballs from the places where people actually live.
Trying to be apolitical is, itself, a political decision, and even if the reason for NASCAR to shun sponsorships from a meme cryptocurrency and political campaigns is that they don’t want to look like assholes to the wider public, there’s still a political backlash to doing it. There’s also money being left on the table, which capitalists just don’t do unless it protects more of their money. Just ask Major League Baseball, with the ALCS and NLCS “presented by LoanDepot,” whether sports leagues will debase themselves for the right price, so long as the reputational hit doesn’t cost more.
Whatever mix of propriety and financial consideration went into NASCAR’s decision on Brown’s sponsorship, you can bet that they’re not scared to learn that “the largest investor into LGBcoin is threatening a lawsuit, citing damages to those who invested in the cryptocurrency, the value of which dropped in the hours after NASCAR’s decision.” That lawsuit has even less chance of being successful than Brown does as ever being known as anything more than the driver whose name became a brain-dead political meme. They’re going to sue? For a private entity turning down a sponsorship because they thought it would be bad for their own business? Because they got a yes at the first step on the corporate ladder and ran to the public with it before getting the actual approval they needed? The only winners of that suit are the lawyers getting the billable hours on it.
Brown will find another sponsor — maybe those coffee guys who Kyle Rittenhouse loved so much, maybe MyPillow to compete with REMarkable Pillow’s truck sponsorship. He’ll be fine, and cheered on by idiots for years to come. It’s not as if NASCAR now stands for the National Association of Socialists, Communists, And Radicals. But the organization knows that openly embracing this kind of nonsense, really the only kind of political sponsorships they’d get, is only a couple of laps away from winding up in the same place as Trump: defeated, irrelevant, and dreaming of past glory while waiting for an inevitable death.
Making that stand over a cryptocurrency for idiots is an easy way to draw that line.