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Michael Jordan becomes first Black NASCAR owner in 50 years

/ by K.C. Johnson
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USA Today

Legendary former Bulls superstar Michael Jordan continued to embrace his late-stage action for social causes Monday by announcing he'll become the first Black majority owner of a full-time NASCAR team in close to 50 years.

Jordan will serve as principal owner of an unnamed, single-car team that will feature Bubba Wallace, who is also Black, as the driver. Wallace signed a multi-year deal for the team, which will feature three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin as a minority partner.

"Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I've been a NASCAR fan my whole life," Jordan said in a statement. "The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me. Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more.

"In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing."

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Jordan Brand recently made a 10-year, $100 million commitment to social justice initiatives, and NBA owners — of which Jordan is one — also started a $300 million fund committed to economically empowering Black communities.

 

Jordan was also, according to ESPN's Jackie MacMullan, a crucial liaison between the NBPA and Board of Governors in negotiating terms for the league's season to resume after the Milwaukee Bucks led a walkout of playoff games that sparked demonstrations across American sports in the wake of Kenosha police officers shooting Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man.

NASCAR recently banned the Confederate flag from events, a departure from the league's history.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott owned and raced his own car from the 1960s into the early 1970s, a period which also marked a turbulent time for race relations in the United States. A news release said the name, car number, manufacturer and sponsors would be announced at a later date.

"This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point my career," Wallace said in the statement. "Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best they team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I'm grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me, and I'm super pumped to being this adventure with them."

NBC Sports Chicago's Rob Schaefer contributed