Sunday, August 10, 2008
NASCAR's Own Echo Workplace Concerns
There was quite a build-up to the Sunday morning episode of ESPN's news program entitled Outside The Lines. As it turned out, there was a good reason why.
ESPN anchor Mark Schwarz hosted this program while series regular Bob Ley was on vacation. The Lead Reporter for OTL is Kelly Naqi, an ESPN veteran who worked her way up through the ranks.
The premise of this week's episode was that NASCAR had filed their response to the Mauricia Grant lawsuit and it was time to talk to other minorities who work in the NASCAR world and get their perspectives. ESPN got an earful.
This week, stories have been published documenting Grant's personal legal struggles over the years. From a drunk driving arrest to a long since expired restraining order, the public interest into Grant's real motivation has begun.
ESPN took this weekend as the opportunity to dive right into the issue as a whole. It was time to talk about workplace treatment of minorities in NASCAR on national TV. NASCAR fans knew well in advance this was going to be interesting.
Naqi spoke with several professional employees, beginning with Mauricia Grant. Unfortunately, the feature on Grant had been seen before on ESPN and that was disappointing. Starting the show with a repeat of an earlier ESPN feature was perhaps not the best way to open-up this topic.
Naqi transitioned to additional interviews with DEI's Max Siegel and others. Siegel is a powerful speaker and his words made a lot of sense where integrating the sport is concerned. Chris Justice, Antonio Morrison and Michael Hayden are African-American and also current pit crew members. Their comments echoed Siegel's in terms of being in the middle of a slow transition of NASCAR to today's real world.
Nicole Starzynski was a former computer technician for NASCAR and her comments were explicit. She was very clear that she had experienced workplace harassment first-hand. Naqi documented this former employee's issues in very clear terms. This was a new face in the NASCAR workplace issue and perhaps the most interesting of the program.
Naqi followed-up with other women like Lisa Smokstad and Katie Muir who are currently employed in the sport. Smokstad and Muir are both women navigating their way through a very diverse sport. Their comments showed the wide variety of experiences employees can have in a workplace with thousands of personalities involved on a regular basis.
Marcus Jadotte joined the program as the NASCAR representative. He is currently the Director of Public Affairs and Diversity. Jadotte was the most effective NASCAR representative that has been heard in public on this issue. He addressed these topics in a professional manner and left viewers feeling that they had perhaps identified someone who was dealing with these very issues on a day-to-day basis.
Unfortunately, Schwarz was drawn into asking Jadotte about why there are no black or female drivers. This was a bad mistake. He then tried to badger Jadotte on issues like attending races and Jadotte indicated he had attended more than half of the Sprint Cup races. The tide had turned and Schwarz came away as ineffective.
This show left more on the table than it should have and Naqi's use of the older footage of Grant was unfortunate. Where damage to NASCAR is concerned, Jadotte addressed every issue raised by Schwarz. It was an effective response to say the least.
As suspected, OTL lumped all the NASCAR series together even though there had only been allegations against the Nationwide Series officials. In the end, ESPN's news division came away as offering some new footage addressing these issues, but did not effectively present any real evidence that might back-up all of the claims Grant makes in her lawsuit.
Whether Grant's claims are excessive, she is an isolated case or everything she states is true will ultimately be decided in civil court. It will be interesting to watch the NASCAR programs on TV today and see how they follow-up on the OTL program.
What are your thoughts on this episode? We are not asking for your opinion on the lawsuit, only on the Outside The Lines episode of Sunday morning. It should be interesting to see if NASCAR offers Mr. Jadotte to other TV programs throughout the day.
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