A former NASCAR official has filed a $225 million lawsuit, claiming sexual and racial discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.
Mauricia Grant, a black woman, worked as a technical inspector for the NASCAR Nationwide Series from January 2005 until last October, and she claims in the suit she was the repeated subject of sexual advances and crude jokes. She also explains how she feared a co-worker who often referenced the Klu Klux Klan.
Grant claims she was called such names as "Nappy-Headed Mo" and "Queen Sheba," and that when she turned down the sexual advances, her co-workers accused her of being homosexual.
"As an equal opportunity employer, NASCAR is fully committed to the spirit and letter of affirmative action law," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said. "NASCAR provides equal opportunity employment to job candidates and employees without regard to race, religion, creed, age, gender, or any other characteristic protected by law. Personnel decisions are made based on factors such as performance and adherence to corporate policy."
Because NASCAR has a zero-tolerance policy against harassment, Poston said NASCAR would investigate Grant's claims fully.
A more detailed list of allegations can be found by clicking the above link, but regardless of the truth in Grant's claims, this looks bad for NASCAR. Almost everyone I've talked to about this so far shrugged it off, citing that NASCAR is still a "Good Ol' Boys Club" and that crude humor is the nature of things in that sort of environment.
Problem is ... NASCAR isn't just a bunch of old and salty rednecks anymore. As much as some would like to believe that's still the case, NASCAR is a large, multi-billion-dollar-a-year corporation, and there is no room for such behavior in the corporate world. I won't argue whether or not Grant's claims are true, because I honestly don't know. But even if they aren't, this is big public relations problem for a sport desperate to shake its Southern roots.
Will this kill the sport? No, NASCAR's too big and it makes too much money. And unlike the current referee scandal rocking the NBA, this one has nothing to do with the actual competition. Still, if what Grant says turns out to be true, NASCAR better be ready to fire some people and open the checkbook for Grant. Even if NASCAR settles out of court, chances are Grant is going to pull in quite the pretty penny.
Even so, such allegations as this can paint a corporation in a very negative light, and NASCAR doesn't need that sort of publicity. I don't see this scandal turning away fans, but it may be damaging enough to prevent those who might've converted from coming over.