"I'm very gracious to have an elite group of drivers who are willing to stand up for what's right," said Bubba Wallace of his fellow drivers who supported NASCAR's ban of the controversial flag

By Benjamin VanHoose
June 11, 2020 09:18 AM
Advertisement

NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag is creating celebration and backlash.

On Wednesday, the pro racing organization announced that it has officially banned any display of the Confederate flag at all of its events and properties. "The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry," read NASCAR's statement.

Bubba Wallace — NASCAR's only black full-time driver — applauded the decision, telling Good Morning America on Thursday morning that now is "the most crucial time" to "come together and really try to be more inclusive."

"I'm very gracious to have an elite group of drivers who are willing to stand up for what's right and be able to convey the message as well, and push the envelope," he said of his peers who voiced their support of Black Lives Matter. "It just shows the kind of respect we have for each other."

Bubba Wallace and Ray Ciccarelli
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images; Chris Graythen/Getty Images

But not every driver is thrilled with NASCAR's recent ban. Ray Ciccarelli, a part-time NASCAR truck driver, spoke out against the ban, announcing that he's quitting because of it. Ciccarelli wrote, "if this is the direction Nascar is headed we will not participate after 2020 season is over."

"i don't believe in kneeling during Anthem nor taken ppl right to fly what ever flag they love," he continued in a post on Facebook, according to CBS Sports. "I could care less about the Confederate Flag but there are ppl that do and it doesn't make them a racist all you are doing is f---ing one group to cater to another and i ain't spend the money we are to participate in any political BS!!"

Wallace, 26, explained on GMA that the ban is about making all fans feel comfortable while attending the races, which is not possible when the Confederate flag harbors negative connotations, being "a symbol of hate" for so many.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories

"We live in a very selfish world — I'm selfish myself — and this is so much more than about ourselves; this is about our brothers and our sisters that are suffering through a lot," said Wallace. "You look at the Confederate flag and how, yes it may mean heritage to most, but to a group that is in a lot of pain right now ... that's a symbol of hate and it brings back so many bad memories; signs of oppression from way back when, and just, there's no good that comes with that flag."

He added: "That's the message we're trying to get across: It's not about you, it's about a group of people that we are trying to bring together and make the world a better place for."

On Wednesday night, Wallace drove a race car decked out in a Black Lives Matter paint scheme, and wore a black T-shirt with the words "I Can't Breath"—  in reference to the recent killing of George Floyd — raising awareness for the movement and the fight for racial equality.

Bubba Wallace next to his Black Lives Matter race car on Wednesday in Martinsville, Virginia.
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

RELATED VIDEO: Drew Brees Apologizes for ‘Take a Knee’ Comments: ‘Lacked Awareness and Any Type of Compassion’

The controversial flag — which was used by the Confederate States of America before its downfall in 1865 — has "served as a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy, which has caused it to be very popular among white supremacists," according to the Anti-Defamation League.

"No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race," Wallace told CNN on Monday. "... There's going to be a lot of angry people that carry those flags proudly, but it's time for change."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.