Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith has bought into Jesse Iwuji Motorsports. The team will be competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Iwuji steering the No. 34 Chevrolet. Smith joins Michael Jordan, Floyd Mayweather, Brad Daugherty, and Pitbull as minority owners in the sport. Something Smith sees as a good thing that can lead to real change.
“I think there’s tremendous opportunity here,” Smith said. “NASCAR has actually opened the door for minorities to come in and actually own their teams. Ownership is really the key to any type of change you really want to create. If you don’t own it, you can’t really change it. It’s not a bottom-up approach, it’s really a top-down approach.”
Smith makes a fair point. J.R. Smith talked about something similar on the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast. There is power in ownership. If you want to make a sport a vehicle for real change, it starts at the top with ownership.
NASCAR has a poor racial history with respect to Black drivers and the attitudes of its fans. The Confederate flag was a staple at races since its inception.
Smith and Iwuji initially wanted to grab the No. 22 car number for the team — Smith’s iconic number used in his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys. But ultimately they chose the No. 34 – the same number that Black driver Wendell Scott, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, used when he competed in the sport’s top series from 1961 through 1973.
Iwuji, a former defensive back at Navy, started his racing career after completing his full-time military obligations. He still serves as an officer in the Navy Reserve.
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