NBC institutes a 5-second pause in coverage following the racer's on-air use of a vulgarity

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated October 07, 2004 02:30 PM
Credit: Jon Pierre Lasseigne/AP

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has joined the Janet Jackson club, forcing an embarrassed TV network to add a 5-second delay to NASCAR telecasts after the racer uttered a vulgarity during a post-competition interview last weekend.

“We’re disappointed for our viewers to have to do this, but the delay provides a level of protection against anything inappropriate going out over the air,” NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Earnhardt, 30, lost his first-place standing in the Nextel Cup race and was fined $10,000 by NASCAR on Tuesday for cursing into the TV cameras after his victory Sunday in Talladega, Ala. Asked what it means to have won on the track not once but five times, “Little E,” as he is called, replied: “Well it don’t mean s— right now, Daddy’s done won here 10 times, so I gotta do more winnin’.”

Earnhardt, whose legendary racer father died in the 2001 Daytona 500, said he will appeal NASCAR’s decision. NASCAR docked the popular driver 25 points, putting him in second place with seven races to go toward the season’s championship.

Since Janet Jackson’s now-notorious “wardrobe malfunction” on the Super Bowl half-time show earlier this year, federal regulators have cracked down on objectionable content on TV and radio.

Last month, CBS was fined a record $550,000 by the FCC for Jackson’s breast-baring incident. And Howard Stern this week announced that he is moving his popular broadcast-radio show to the subscription-based Sirius Satellite Radio network in 2006 because of what he considers government censorship.

Networks have instituted delays of up to 10 seconds on some programs, as evidenced by ABC’s use of a 5-second delay this season on “Monday Night Football.” Until now, however, NBC had imposed no restrictions on its NASCAR telecasts.