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Rainbow/PUSH and NASCAR.

I WAS APPALLED BY YOUR ARTICLE "THE NEW FACE OF NASCAR" [April 2004]. It totally ignored the contributions of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and Rainbow Sports to the ongoing diversity initiatives in NASCAR [aiming] to improve minority participation in motor sports. As director of Rainbow Sports, I provided the authors of the article with an extensive list of highlights of our accomplishments in motor sports, which were not included in the article. I would like to clear the record once and for all.

Rainbow Sports has been working directly with NASCAR to seek sponsorships for minority teams and drivers since 1999. We arranged for five black-owned teams to make presentations to NASCAR. One of those teams, Miller Racing, subsequently received sponsorship from Dr Pepper. It was the first time in NASCAR history that there has been corporate sponsorship for a black team with a black driver. I was at the first of many meetings with Jack Kildoff, then the president and CEO of Dr Pepper, that led to the historic and unprecedented sponsorship. It took a year to close those negotiations, but it was the leadership of Jesse Jackson that made the deal happen.

NASCAR does indeed have an internship geared toward minority athletes, and Rainbow Sports has been involved in that from the beginning. As a result of our efforts, Texaco started a minority internship program at North Carolina A&T. The Texaco sponsorship included the Rainbow Sports-negotiated purchase of two race cars for N.C. A&T, yet no mention of this was made in your article.

The article does talk extensively about the contributions of Access Marketing and Communications in the NASCAR diversity effort, but again fails to recognize or acknowledge Jesse Jackson's role. The group was founded by the Radiate Group and Calhoun Enterprises, which is headed by Greg Calhoun, a member of the NASCAR Diversity Council and the board of Rainbow/PUSH. Calhoun acknowledges that the group's mission to identify and develop top minority drivers was initiated by Rev. Jackson, something he said he repeatedly told the writers of your article, but that contribution was not reflected in your piece.

Bill Lester, the main focus of the article, has also benefitted from Rainbow/PUSH's efforts. When bounced by Dodge, Lester came to Rev. Jackson for help. I was there when Rev. Jackson called Toyota and appealed to the car company to put Lester in its truck series. Lester, too, has given that credit to Rev. Jackson, but again, that support was not reflected in your article. Rev. Jackson continues to try to raise sponsorship money for Lester.

Willy T. Ribbs chose to lambaste Rainbow/PUSH; BLACK ENTERPRISE furthered the one-sidedness of his comments without printing our responses. Willy received a Rainbow/PUSH award in 1999 for his contributions to motor sports. It was Jesse Jackson who helped secure sponsorship for him to become the first African American to race at Indy.

NASCAR knew what it was doing when it came to Rainbow/PUSH for help in addressing its diversity issues. Rev. Jackson and Rainbow Sports have responded by trying to establish a diversity agenda for motor sports. Progress, admittedly, has been slow, but what should be faulted is not the NASCAR-Rainbow/PUSH relationship, but the reluctance of sponsors to embrace and support diversity in motor sports by anteing up sponsorship dollars for minorities who can and will become the Tiger Woods or Serena Williams of racing. They are indeed on the horizon, and the sport will never be the same. Jesse Jackson has made sure of that, whether BE gives him credit or not.

Charles S. Farrell

Director, Rainbow Sports

Rainbow/PUSH New York Bureau

New York City
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Article Details
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Author:Farrell, Charles S.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Previous Article:Shaping the future of NASCAR.
Next Article:Losing the diversity race.

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