An Iowa professional auto-racing announcer was fired for his comments about protest gestures during the U.S. National Anthem.
A man identified as Lon Oelke was fired after a July 15 incident at Kossuth County Speedway in Algona, Iowa, CBS Sports reports. Oelke was working as a fill-in announcer at the speedway when, before a race, he went on a rant he called a “social service” message, taking issue with athletes who take a knee in protest of the national anthem.
“If you won’t stand for our flag, if you’re gonna take a knee, if you’re gonna feel you have rights — you have the right to remain silent for most of the time — But I got four words for you: Find a different country, if you won’t do it. Get the hell out of Dodge. A lot of people have sacrificed many things in their lives for us to be able to do these liberties. And if you feel that’s all right, well, I don’t know. You just don’t have a right,” he said.
Oelke went on to make disparaging comments about the NFL’s plan to play the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice And Sing” before some of its games in the upcoming season.
“I’ve heard about all the stuff going on in the NFL, and now they’re going to have another national anthem for those folks. For the — I guess — darker-toned skin color … I’ll just say Blacks. They want a different national anthem and the NFL is thinking about doing it. So I say shut the TVs off and let them play in front of nobody. Yes! That’s my announcement,” he said.
After Oelke’s comments began to circulate on social media, Kossuth County Speedway released a statement that it had parted ways with Oelke, who was filling in that night for the usual track announcer Chad Meyer. Speedway officials claimed that they had not heard Oelke’s rant at the time because the track’s public address system is difficult to hear for those not sitting in the stands.
“Kossuth County Speedway and the Kossuth County Fair Board do not condone the comments made by the fill-in announcer. We do not tolerate discrimination at our racing events and welcome race fans of all color, gender, religion, and creed to join our racing family,” read the statement.
It continued, “We acknowledge that though this is an isolated incident, that does not make it okay. Going forward, we will no longer be employing the individual who made those comments as a fill-in announcer at any of our track events.”
According to CBS Sports, Oelke usually works as the track announcer at Fairmont Raceway in Minnesota. Fairmont Raceway promoter Jon McCorkell made a statement in support of Oelke, saying in a Facebook post that he agreed “with all of Lon’s comments and opinions.” The post has since been deleted.
NASCAR spotter Freddie Kraft, who spots for the only Black driver in NASCAR, Bubba Wallace, wrote a Twitter post about McCorkell’s statement. “Can’t fix stupid. New candidate for the What an Idiot Hall of Fame. I guess this is one way to ‘promote’ your race track. Good luck with that.”