Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nascar's New Silence Policy

Nascar announced last week it had fined two undisclosed drivers for remarks they made disparaging the sport.  Nascar wants to develop this policy to keep up with the NBA, NFL, and other major sports.

The "small" problem is that Nascar is not like other major sports.  The NBA, NFL and MLB are all unionized sports that provide a variety of helps to their players.  All three major sports have contracting helps for players coming into the league, minimum salary requirements, health insurance and retirement benefits.

Nascar does not allow a players' union, does not provide health insurance and does not require or provide retirement benefits.  Using the argument that each driver/crew chief/ crew member is an independent contractor, Nascar has strenuously rebuffed unionization.

Curtis Turner, a man who should be in the Nascar Hall of Fame for his driving skills, if not for his part in developing Charlotte Motor Speedway with Bruton Smith, tried to unionize Nascar back in the 1960's.  Big Bill France responded by banning him for life from the sport (this was eventually lifted several years later).

More recently, the issue of standardized retirement contributions reared its head when Sam Ard, a Busch series champion, had no retirement, and fell on hard times as he aged.  Despite the rallying of drivers and the media, Nascar basically said, "Sorry, we aren't responsible for drivers retirement and we won't provide a retirement plan for drivers as they are independent contractors."

Now Nascar wants to have its cake and eat it too.  It wants to punish "independent contractors" for saying things against the sport while at the same time not providing the benefits the other major sports do.

If Nascar wants to have drivers tow the line, then it needs to pony up some of the benefits of the other major sports' unionization - particularly retirement benefits, open disclosure of contracts (like the others), provide health care insurance, and help young drivers moving into the sport.

Shame on them for taking and without giving.


CR_Racing said...

I AGREE! Sorry, I usualy don't shout when posting. But, you are hit the nail on the head! I can understand, NASCAR wanting to maintain some control over the image of the sport. But to fine drivers for something as trivial as what Ryan Newman said, is ridiculous! NASCAR wants to control the drivers like the NBA controls it's players. But NASCAR knows it can only go so far, hence the hush, hush, on who they fined.

jon_464 said...

You hit the nail on the head! It is appaling how the older, retired drivers like Sam Arp are being treated. I'm normally not in favor of unions, but perhaps Curtis Turner had it right in the 1960's.

Dwindy1 said...

Hi Iowa Girl!

Couldn't agree more about NASCAR having the audacity to fine these drivers for speaking their minds and on top of that, then trying to maintain a veil of secrecy around their actions. We're all aware of the problems facing NASCAR and while I initially approved of their town hall approach to examining the problems, including the team owners and drivers in the discussion to look for solutions, I now have to wonder about these latest actions.

That being said, I have to take issue with correlating what's just occurred to a need on NASCAR's part to provide benefits to the drivers. If anyone should be taking care of the drivers its the drivers themselves. They negotiate working agreements with their team owners. They negotiate advertising, appearance and other sponsorship deals either on their own or with the use of an agent. None of this is accomplished through NASCAR. If the drivers have their heads on straight they are making these deals with their future financial stability in mind. Some do and some don't. Is that NASCAR's realm? Is it NASCAR's fault when things go wrong? The answer to both of those questions is no.

The people that happen to drive in NASCAR events, just like our country's people in general, need to think about what they're doing and take personal responsibility for their actions.

Annette said...

CR - I think it is interesting that Nascar decided to fine two guys who apparently didn't get much publicity for the remarks - at least initially.

Jon - I'm not fond of some things unions do. However, in this situation, Nascar needs to recognize that the significant differences in structure make fines for comments not work.

Dwindy - I agree with your analysis that people should take care of themselves. However, the difference is that the NBA, NFL, MLB have contracts with each player which specifically defines what the person does etc.

While Nascar teams have them with their drivers, Nascar does not have a contractual relationship with the drivers - aside from the releases signed at each race/season. To have Nascar try to enforce what other sports organizations do without the built in protections offered by the other major sports is corporately and personally unethical.

Gene Haddock said...

The teams are independent contractors. The drivers are contracted employees with the teams. The teams are the ones that furnish benefits to their contracted employees... not NASCAR.

NASCAR should have no right to drug test or censor someone else's contracted employees,yet they can, and do. Why? because the drivers have signed papers allowing NASCAR to do this. If the drivers don't like it, they can go drive for that other national stock car organization... oh yeah, there isn't one.

Maybe drivers, and crewmen, could organize a union wherein team owners would be management, not NASCAR?


Gene Haddock said...

part 2...

I work in non-union states, building homes. We have contracts with our subcontractors, not their hourly workers. However, if one of their hourly workers badmouths our company to a customer, that employee won't be around long.

Same thing with NASCAR fining the drivers for badmouthing their product to the customers. You can not do that without repercussions.