An Open Letter to NASCAR
April 6, 2015
If you agree that NASCAR should take a stand against domestic violence, sign our petition.
Chairman and CEO
Dear Mr. France,
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is the leading national voice for domestic violence victims and their advocates. We work closely with our member programs, the 56 state and territory domestic violence coalitions, to understand the ongoing and emerging needs of survivors and service providers. NNEDV has worked for over 25 years with policymakers, the media, and organizations like yours to end domestic violence in our country.
We are writing today to express our deep concern regarding your organization’s position on domestic violence. In following the stance and actions that NASCAR has taken with regard to driver Kurt Busch, it seems that your organization has decided to minimize domestic violence, instead of continuing to take a stand against it.
On February 20, 2015 NASCAR initially took a strong stance:
NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kurt Busch for actions detrimental to stock car racing following the release today of a supplemental disposition setting forth the findings and conclusions that formed the basis for the Family Court of the State of Delaware’s decision on Monday to issue an Order of Protection from Abuse against him.
Busch, driver of the No. 41 car, was found to be in violation of:
>>Section 12.1.a: Actions detrimental to stock car racing
>>Section 12.8: Behavioral Penalty
“Given the serious nature of the findings and conclusions made by the Commissioner of the Family Court of the State of Delaware, NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kurt Busch, effective immediately. He will not be allowed to race nor participate in any NASCAR activities until further notice.
“Kurt Busch and his Stewart-Haas Racing team are fully aware of our position and why this decision was made. We will continue to respect the process and timetable of the authorities involved.”
The following day, February 21st, your organization stood firmly behind its decision by denying multiple appeals by Mr. Busch. This strong stance sent a message of accountability, not just to Mr. Busch and the victim, but to everyone watching.
Unfortunately, just 17 days later, NASCAR reversed this decision, even though the findings used to justify the suspension did not change. In fact, your organization did more than reinstate Mr. Busch, you also provided an exemption which allows him to participate in your points championship, leaving the perception that NASCAR regretted taking a stance against domestic violence.
We find it troubling that just a few weeks after NASCAR suspended Mr. Busch for what it called the “serious nature of the findings and conclusions made by the Commissioner of the Family Court of the State of Delaware” the organization, without explanation, changed its position. It is important to note that the protective order issued by the Delaware court, which served as the basis for your original decision, still remains in place today — in other words: nothing changed legally, yet NASCAR walked away from its stance against domestic violence. Additionally, it is important to recognize that the decision by the prosecutor to not move forward has no bearing on whether or not the assault actually took place.
NNEDV is gravely concerned about the message you are sending to your drivers, staff, partners, teams, sponsors, and loyal fan base. In fact, the response from many fans has been to viciously attack the victim through social media and other online platforms. The driver himself used your reinstatement as support for the statement that he was “wrongly accused” and took no responsibility for his actions – putting the blame squarely on the victim. We remind you that the following conclusion was reached by the Delaware court and was the basis for your original decision:
The Court is satisfied that the evidence presented at trial established that it is more likely than not that on September 26, 2014, Respondent committed an act of abuse against Petitioner by manually strangling Petitioner with his left hand on her throat, while placing his right hand against her chin and face, cause her head to forcefully strike the interior wall of Respondent’s motor home, thereby recklessly causing physical injury.
No form of abuse should be tolerated and the physical violence described by the court – strangulation and head trauma – is extremely serious. In order to put an end to domestic violence and the perceptions that perpetuate it, organizations like NASCAR need to stand firmly against this kind of behavior. We urge NASCAR to follow the lead of other major sports organizations and work toward ending all violence against women. Leaders from NNEDV would like to meet with you and your colleagues to discuss domestic violence and how your decision to abandon your suspension sends the wrong message on this important issue.
President & CEO
National Network to End Domestic Violence
If you agree that NASCAR should take a stand against domestic violence, sign our petition today.