On Friday, Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) called NASCAR out on their hypocrisy, charging that they only seem to enforce the rules when the misconduct is caught on camera. She asked the organization, ”How is it that NASCAR can take action when a reporter is threatened, and not when a woman is physically assaulted?”
Speier called on NASCAR to suspend driver Kurt Busch after court documents revealed charges of assaulting his intimate partner, smashing her head against a wall repeatedly. Two years ago, Busch was suspended for merely threatening a male reporter – on camera.
In a letter sent to the President of NASCAR Mike Helton and co-owners of Mr. Busch’s racing team Stewart-Haas Racing Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, the Democratic Congresswoman demanded that NASCAR take a stance on violence against women by suspending the driver until the investigation is complete. Her letter reads in part:
“NASCAR would rather let Mr. Busch drive for the remainder of the racing season than take a stance on violence against women,” said Speier. “While he rounds the track, the legal processes for his domestic violence charges race forward as well. Until his legal proceedings end, NASCAR should put Mr. Busch’s car in park. The charges are horrifying, and NASCAR’s inaction sends a clear signal to drivers that owners do not take these violent actions seriously.
“This isn’t the first time that Mr. Busch’s anger management issues have been brought to NASCAR’s attention: he was suspended after threatening a reporter there in June 2012. How is it that NASCAR can take action when a reporter is threatened, and not when a woman is physically assaulted? It calls into question the enforcement policies exercised by NASCAR and whether their code of conduct has a double standard. Do they only punish misconduct caught on camera?”
Justin Baragona detailed the allegations for Politicus Sports:
Police in Delaware are currently investigating NASCAR driver Kurt Busch over an alleged incident where it is claimed that he choked his ex-girlfriend and slammed her head into a wall. Patricia Driscoll, Busch’s ex, filed a statement with the Dover Police Department on Wednesday and claims that the incident occurred on September 26th at Dover International Speedway. Driscoll claims that Busch was verbally abusive towards her after having a poor qualifying run and it later became physical. Court documents that Driscoll filed shows that she is requesting Busch not be allowed near her and that he also be required to undergo a psychological examination.
Here’s the 2012 incident where Busch threatened a male reporter on camera:
So, this is not okay with NASCAR:
The suspension stemmed from Busch’s comments toward Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass following Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway. Busch had been asked about racing hard against Justin Allgaier and whether being on probation caused him to exercise on-track restraint.
Busch responded, “It refrains me from not beating the (expletive) out of you right now, because you ask me stupid questions. But since I’m on probation, I suppose that that’s improper to say as well.”
But the suggestion of this is okay with NASCAR:
Driscoll said Busch, 36, called her names and accused her of “having spies everywhere and having a camera on the bus to watch him.” He then jumped up, grabbed her face and smashed her head three times against the wall next to the bed, Driscoll says in the documents.
Busch claims that his ex girlfriend made up these allegations in order to get money from him. However, Patricia Driscoll doesn’t appear to be hurting for money. According to Wikipedia, she runs (ironically) ”a private security and surveillance company… For the intelligence community and the Department of Defense.” She’s been given special recognition by President George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and more. In addition, she heads a charity called the Armed Forces Foundation, for which she has appeared on Fox News.
Busch’s history is littered with “incidents” in which he argues with police officers, is belligerent with reporters, and more. It’s not as if it’s a stretch. Busch feels so entitled to behave violently without repercussion that he felt there was little risk in threatening a male reporter on camera. Imagine how he might be when the cameras are off and the person he’s angry with doesn’t have the power of a media empire behind her.
NASCAR responded by insinuating that Bush’s ex girlfriend Patricia Driscoll is a liar by saying, “(T)here’s two sides to every story.” Apparently only one side gets the benefit of the doubt. But also, no. There are not two sides to reality. Three women a day dying from an assault by an intimate partner is not a “side” to a story. It’s reality. And they don’t ever get to tell their “side”, because they are dead.
This is the kind of statement that enables violence against women by perpetrating the idea that assaulting another person is the result of a “volatile relationship” rather than an abusive personality. Most people in relationships have fights, get angry, and say stupid things. But most men do not shove their girlfriend’s head into the wall as a result.
Speier is one of the lone voices in Congress speaking out against the cavalier way in which our sports culture condones and enables acts of violence against women. In September, she sent a letter to the NFL and five NFL teams asking them to change their policies to suspension until investigations are completed for players accused of assaulting an intimate partner. Speier is sadly no stranger to violence; she was shot five times while leaving Guyana, as part of then Congressman Leo Ryan’s investigation of the People’s Temple in Jonestown. Martina Castro writing for KALW News noted that their fact finding mission ended in “bloodshed and the death of Congressman Ryan.”
That is the ugly truth behind acts of violence. They sometimes end in death. In the US, three women a day die from an act of violence perpetrated against them by an intimate partner. With statistics like this, the sports world should be sending a firm message backed up by a no tolerance policy. Imagine if the positive role models (and there are many of them) got the rewards while the abusers paid a price for their actions. It would be a different world.
Hey NASCAR, banging a woman’s head into the wall three times is a reason to park that car. Consider this a #brotip.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.