When NASCAR driver Jeremy Clements was “indefinitely suspended” Wednesday for making what was described as an “intolerable and insensitive remark,” the sports world went into rampant rumor mode. Several ideas were floated throughout the online community: Was Clements’ disturbing comments part of a feud with a rival driver? Was it a jab at NASCAR rookie and current golden girl Danica Patrick? But as more information on the incident started to come out—more importantly that the remark was racially insensitive—the story became bigger than just Nationwide Series gossip as Clements, a NASCAR publicist and an MTV reporter all became unwitting participants in the controversy.
Now the story has become full-blown. According to MTV writer and Guy Code blog associate editor Marty Beckerman, the Clements saga was ignited during his coverage of last weekend’s festivities at the Daytona International Speedway. For Beckerman it was a straightforward gig. “I was there to do a fish-out-of-water story about going to NASCAR and having a wild, crazy weekend,” he recalled during an MTV interview. “And, we were doing interviews with many of the drivers, and I was on the way to another interview — we were looking for [driver] Johanna Long's trailer — and the NASCAR publicist called Mr. Clements over and asked him for help finding her.”
That’s when Beckerman asked the speedster to give some cool, male-leaning advice to viewers of the Guy Code program. “I explained to him that Guy Code is rules for guys, how you treat your friends, how you treat your ladies, things like that. I was there to do a humor piece, so I asked him what would be Guy Code for race car drivers, and he blurted out [a phrase that used the N-word].”
Beckerman says Clements shocking comment was used to explain, “if you drive roughly, you’ll be treated roughly.” A day later, as the firestorm began to explode, a suspended Clements attempted some much needed damage control, explaining to the reporter that he regretted making the racial comment. "I don't know him well enough to know if that reflects anything in his heart," Beckerman said of Clements’ usage of the N-bomb, “but he said he doesn't harbor these feelings.”
Yet for NASCAR officials it was a nightmare scenario. During the long history of the billon dollar racing behemoth it has had to fight the continuing stereotype that NASCAR is a white-man’s sport. And while it has attempted to reach across to minority drivers through various programs, it’s a notion that still dogs NASCAR to this day. Most recently, when rap mogul 50 Cent was asked to participate in Sunday’s Daytona 500, he tweeted of the fans he witnessed in attendance, “Damn, I don't see no black people lol,”
For his part, Beckerman says he never planned for anything like this to happen. “We had not even intended to necessarily publish it, because our site is a humor site for men, we aren't the New York Times, we aren't investigative journalism. It didn't fit with our blog,” Beckerman explained. “The fact is that NASCAR made this a national story, and then Clements explained a bit of what he said to ESPN ... I never wanted to be part of the story.”—Keith Murphy (amurphdogg29)