NFL superstar Alvin Kamara is aware that he isn’t a stereotypical NASCAR fan.
Historically, NASCAR enthusiasts haven’t always looked like the New Orleans Saints running back from Atlanta, but he hopes that stereotype is beginning to turn around.
“It’s surprising because this is not a sport that generally someone like me, or someone who looks like me, would be into. I’m just being realistic,” Kamara said. “But everybody is nice, so open, welcoming and opening their arms to me to their world. I feel like I’m a part of it now.”
Kamara had always been drawn to the fast cars and bright colors but didn’t commit to NASCAR until the sanctioning body banned the Confederate flag from all events on June 10. Later that week, he attended his first race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in support of Bubba Wallace, the only full-time Black driver across all three NASCAR national tours.
“It’s one of those things where I feel like – I don’t think this was a place where a lot of us felt comfortable being,” Kamara said. “I had a perception of what NASCAR was before I was involved. You see that flag, you see the scope of what’s going on … One bad apple spoils the bunch. You see certain things and you’re like, ‘No, that’s not anywhere I need to be at.’
“But fast forward, and I’m getting involved and I’m seeing what’s going on, seeing the leadership from the top to the bottom – starting with upper personnel, talking to (NASCAR President) Steve (Phelps) and his staff and his crew. Everybody is so open and welcoming. At first, I had some withdrawal from it. Even when I went to (Homestead), I was, ‘Alright, let me just stay on my side – I’ll introduce (myself).’
“But everybody was so welcoming: ‘Man, we love that you’re here! Are you really interested?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah!’ We got a conversation going and flowing, I’m meeting fans, interacting with people, and I’m like ‘Oh, this is a safe space. This is not what I thought it was. I was pleasantly surprised.’”
His indoctrination as a NASCAR enthusiast has become so deeply entrenched that he’s already investing into his new pastime, sponsoring underdog minority driver Ryan Vargas and JD Motorsports over the weekend.
But he wants to take that investment one step forward.
Wanting to share his newfound love for the sport, Kamara says he’s already encouraged Saints linebacker Craig Robertson and former teammate Mark Ingram Jr. to come to a race and understand his excitement.
At first, they even questioned if he was serious about his new fandom, and Kamara said he was willing to put his own money towards the conviction.
“’You’ve gotta come, I’m telling you,’” Kamara says of the conversations with fellow NFL stars. “Hopefully when this COVID thing [and] the restrictions get a little more relaxed and things get a little more safer, “I’m like, man, I will pay for everybody to come to a race and sit in a suite so you can see what’s going on, or go down by the track and really hear, or just sit in the grandstands and hear the engines start or see the laps. It’s different. It’s a different experience. … You gotta experience it, you gotta be there to really appreciate the sport.”
Kamara says the Confederate flag ban was a significant overture to the Black community that NASCAR’s doors were open for everyone in a way that wasn’t true before. Wallace signing with a new team launched by NBA legend Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin further cemented the industry’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
It’s something he wants to be a part of, share, and encourage to grow.
“I think there is people in the African-American community that are obviously interested. I think it’s more on our radar now because of what’s been happening over the past [nine] months. Bubba – the news of him has been everywhere. Obviously with NASCAR making the move to ban the [Confederate] flag from their events and from basically their culture and their footprint, that was one huge thing. I probably couldn’t bring myself to go to a race if that was something that I felt like they were supporting.
“So, with that being gone, I think that there will be more African-American fans and people that are interested. And once that happens — once they see me and Michael Jordan and people that are actually interested in doing things — I think that just opens the door for more fans.”
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