Sen. Murphy urges NASCAR to ditch NRA sponsorship

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Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy is urging NASCAR to drop the National Rifle Association’s sponsorship of an April Sprint Cup Series race at the Texas Motor Speedway.

In a Thursday letter to NASCAR President and CEO Brian France, Murphy cited the NRA’s political positions following the elementary school shooting in Newton, Conn., saying “NASCAR has crossed a line” by giving the NRA the title sponsorship at a major race, set to be called the NRA 500.

“As a U.S. senator representing the community of Newtown, Connecticut, I write to you today to ask that you reconsider this decision,” Murphy wrote in his letter to France. “After the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators, the NRA has taken an unprecedented extreme position in the debate over the proper response to this tragedy, placing themselves at odds with the overwhelming majority of the American people, and even their own members.”

“Given the emotional state of the national conversation, I believe it would be imprudent for NASCAR to step into such a heated political debate and take sides in this debate by allowing the NRA the title role in the race,” he advised.

On Monday, following the sponsorship announcement, Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage told the AP that the decision is “not about politics. It’s about sports marketing,”

Recalling that France has been a big supporter of Sandy Hook, including donating $50,000 to Sandy Hook School Support Fund, and that NASCAR recently ran a Sandy Hook car, Murphy charged that the NRA sponsorship would nonetheless bring the sport into the political debate about guns.

“[Y]ou have decided to put yourself in the middle of a political debate, and you have taken a side that stands in opposition to the wishes of so many Newtown families who support common sense gun reform,” Murphy alleged.

“By announcing this new partnership at the very height of Congress’s deliberations over gun reform, NASCAR has inserted itself into a political debate that has nothing to do with the business of NASCAR. To me, this seems an unwise break with precedent.”

Traditionally, the winner of the Texas Motor Speedway race gets to fire a six-shooter in victory lane, and the winner of the pole is awarded a rifle.

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