The Race at Ace 125 wasn’t a protest against injustice and inequality.
It was a mockery.
And more than anything else, that’s why track operators Robert and Jason Turner should have their feet held to the fire over what transpired on Saturday night at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, North Carolina.
Listen, it’s a shame that this weekly dick measuring contest between the state of North Carolina and the Turners had to overshadow both the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and its competitors, because they delivered a fantastic show to the thousands in attendance and to those watching on the internet — at a facility that the Turners have done wonders with in reviving it over the past several years.
But, should thousands of fans be permitted into the Alamance County speedway right now?
That’s totally a fair question and one that I sympathize with the racing community asking right now — especially with several dirt tracks across the state operating in a similar manner without reproach.
Before getting into that debate, we need to establish a generally agreeable middle ground about our current state of affairs: No one wants a shuttered economy. Regardless of how entrenched you are in your particular political spectrum, understand that the status quo is literally bad for everyone.
Complicating matters is that our understanding of the coronavirus pandemic changes by the day if not the hour. The World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control routinely contradict each other, and that doesn’t even include the different levels of urgency coming from various country and state officials.
It’s complicated, and while we’ve learned so much, there is still much we don’t understand.
While this remains a point of contention to many of you, the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution grants the reopening of each state’s economies up to their governors. Legally, the governor even has the right to reopen Alamance County at a slower pace than Catawba County if he sees an alarming number of cases.
Is that something worth challenging in the courts? Absolutely.
All of this is to say that the Turners, despite their inherent ethical disregard for health and safety, were given a means to stage races upon receiving a de facto blessing from Sheriff Terry Johnson, whom said he would not enforce the governor’s order on the claims that doing so would be unconstitutional.
That doesn’t mean Sheriff Johnson is legally right in that regard, but that was his choice and it opened the door for the Turners to open theirs.
What wasn’t right, purely from an ethical standpoint, was declaring The Race at Ace 125 a peaceful protest against injustice and equality everywhere.
How tone deaf do you have to be to do that right now?
The sign placed outside the Ace Speedway parking lot was the equivalent of those who posted a white square on social media during a week in which the Black Lives Matter movement sent a powerful (and absolutely necessary) message of unity and progress for social change.
If the Turners want to stand up to Town Hall because they have conviction that it’s the right thing to do, own it.
Feel free to continue to defy orders from the state government and do so because you believe it’s unfair that Ace Speedway is being singled out when state dirt tracks have not. There is a leg to stand on there. Follow the example set by the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association, who sued the state when it reopened restaurants, breweries, distilleries and wineries under the Phase 2 restrictions but not bars. There is a leg to stand on there.
But at best … to co-opt a legitimate and sincere movement … and at worst to protest the fact that there are constitutionally protected protests was a disgusting act.
The First Amendment supersedes the pandemic. Yes, it permits mass gatherings. The First Amendment does not permit anyone to purchase sporting event tickets and accompanying hamburgers.
No one was ever at risk of being tear gassed out of the grandstands, or even arrested for showing up. That’s a fight purely between the state of North Carolina and the Turners.
To even compare the plight of a racetrack that couldn’t (in the words of the state) even respectfully engage the state in trying to craft a pandemic response policy to those who have been systemically marginalized, oppressed and marginalized in the decades since they were even permitted the most basic (and inadequate) civil rights is disingenuous and insincere.
Fight your battle, Ace Speedway, but take personal responsibility for it.
Be better than everything you implied this was on Saturday night.