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NASCAR donates to Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, fueling diversity efforts

 NASCAR unveiled a logo with rainbow colors as part of its partnership with The Trevor Project in June 2021.
NASCAR unveiled a logo with rainbow colors as part of its partnership with The Trevor Project in June 2021.

NASCAR has made a major donation to Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, the chamber announced Tuesday, which will fund the chamber's diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the coming year.

Both NASCAR and the chamber declined to disclose the amount of the gift, but said the chamber would use the money to conduct diversity, equity and inclusion seminars at businesses around North and South Carolina through 2022.

The gift is part of an effort by NASCAR to support local diversity and inclusion efforts, and make inroads with LGBTQ race fans, said Brandon Thompson, NASCAR's vice president of diversity and inclusion. It also marks the first time NASCAR has partnered with an LGBT chamber of commerce.

"We know that fans of NASCAR look different, they love different, they're differently able," Thompson said, "This gives us an opportunity to let them know that we see them as well as support them."

The donation is the latest step NASCAR has taken to support LGBTQ organizations in recent years. The stock car racing organization has also made public contributions to The Trevor Project, and in June 2021, NASCAR employees raised money and participated in a charity run for the One Pulse Foundation in Orlando.

Thompson said NASCAR has been making intentional steps to promote diversity and inclusion initiatives since an incident in June 2020 in which a purported noose was found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage of the association's only Black full-time driver, Bubba Wallace.

An FBI probe later determined it was likely a pull rope that had been in the garage for months, but Thompson said the incident was a wake up call for NASCAR leaders.

"That was really the trigger for us to make sure that our entire industry was trained, particularly in areas of unconscious bias and sensitivity," Thompson said.

Since that incident, NASCAR has banned the Confederate battle flag at all of its events and properties, and Thompson said all drivers, team members and other administrative staff are now required to take diversity, equity and inclusion training.

The racing organization has also shown support for driver Devin Rouse, who came out as gay in June 2020, and went on to compete in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series.

Staff with the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce said they were happy to partner with NASCAR, and said the gift would allow the organization to expand its reach throughout the region.

"Especially as a nonprofit, any time you can partner with such a large organization that has such great visibility, it really helps your mission, and it really helps give those that you're serving visibility as well," said the chamber's spokes per son , Jessica Milicevic.

The donation will help the chamber provide diversity and inclusion training to businesses in North and South Carolina through 2022. After, the chamber may find a new corporate partner to sponsor ongoing diversity and inclusion training efforts.

Copyright 2021 WFAE

WFAE's Nick de la Canal can be heard on public radio airwaves across the Charlotte region, bringing listeners the latest in local and regional news updates. He's been a part of the WFAE newsroom since 2013, when he began as an intern. His reporting helped the station earn an Edward R. Murrow award for breaking news coverage following the Keith Scott shooting and protests in September 2016. More recently, he's been reporting on food, culture, transportation, immigration, and even the paranormal on the FAQ City podcast. He grew up in Charlotte, graduated from Myers Park High, and received his degree in journalism from Emerson College in Boston. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal