Aug 9, 2004
NASCAR Fights LitteringBy JR Nerad
When I was a kid my parents always taught me not to litter. Now, as a parent, I try to teach my kids the same thing. So I was heartened when a national race sanctioning body (NASCAR) decided to take a big stand against littering recently. In fact, they have gone to great lengths to ensure that their drivers don't do anything that might be construed as throwing stuff on the ground and just leaving it there. After all, that's a bad example for the youth of America.
Oh, you haven't heard of the NASCAR anti-littering campaign? Maybe that's because it revolves around one kind of litter, namely soft drink bottles. It seems that in televised victory lane celebrations NASCAR has decided to boost the fortunes of one of its major sponsors (PowerAde, a Coca-Cola brand) by placing PowerAde bottles on the roofs of winning race cars. Implicitly this sends the message that after a long, grueling race winners naturally reach for PowerAde. The only trouble with this is drivers sponsored by rival drink companies, like Gatorade and Pepsi, have made it their routine to knock the bottles to the ground--blatant cases of littering--so they don't give the impression they're endorsing a brand that isn't paying their salaries.
NASCAR, whose officials were obviously raised by parents like mine who abhor litter, decided that this disgraceful behavior should stop. Indeed, three weeks ago NASCAR president Mike Helton took it upon himself to enforce his organization's anti-littering initiative by informing drivers that knocking soft drink bottles off winning race cars would not be tolerated.
So what happened? Jimmie Johnson, who always seems to be in the middle of controversy, decided that, since he couldn't knock the PowerAde bottle off his car as he had done with the Coke bottles when he won the Coca-Cola 600, he would simply put a sign touting another of his sponsors in front of the offending PowerAde bottle. But though he wasn't littering, he got in trouble for that, too. NASCAR cited him for an "act detrimental to stock car racing," and it fined him $10,000 (which by rights should be paid by Pepsi.)
If you stop and think about it, NASCAR commits acts detrimental to stock car racing almost every week. The latest anti-littering campaign is yet another example. But, hey, that's racing.
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