NFL running back Alvin Kamara obviously experienced some fun times while attending his first NASCAR race in June of last year. He’s now loving attending the live races whenever he can, and he’s encouraging other NFL players to attend future events.
Alvin Kamara Finds Community and Kindness in NASCAR
What made the athlete a newfound fan of these NASCAR races?
“I was kind of like, let me stay on my side, I’ll introduce myself. But everyone was so welcoming. They’re like, ‘Man, we love that you’re here. Are you really interested?’ I’m like yeah, and we had conversations going and flowing,” Kamara says on his first NASCAR teleconference.
He adds, ““I feel like I’m a part of it now.”
The open and friendly environment shows Kamara that he is welcome at the races, which creates a feeling of joy and community in the heart of the New Orleans Saints running back. Obviously, he is happy to find such comfort in meeting those who are in attendance at the event.
“I’m meeting fans and interacting with people,” adds Kamara. “I’m like oh, this is a safe space. It’s not what I thought it was. I was pleasantly surprised.”
The beauty in this is surreal. The coming together and support of athletes of all different sports is most definitely a positive. The fact that Kamara says the events “are a safe place” rings a hopeful message of togetherness.
Kamara claims he first became truly intrigued by the sport of racing cars during the COVID shutdown. His invitation to attend a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway piqued his interest, making him want to attend the event. Although he was hesitant to enter the arena, he took the risk and enjoyed every moment.
If you recall, there were some serious concerns with NASCAR during the Black Lives Matter movement. However, Kamara is telling fans and other NFL players that the environment has changed and has become more welcoming to all.
NASCAR Makes Important Changes To Its Policies
Last year was a tough one for NASCAR, as accusations of supporting racism and the industry being racist itself came to a head. Since, NASCAR has adjusted many cultural aspects when it comes to what’s allowed during the races.
NASCAR leaders have prohibited Confederate flags from all NASCAR venues.
Kamara sees these changes, and says “better late than never.”
During the same time that the Confederate flags were facing prohibition from races, the industry supported the only black NASCAR driver at the Cup Series level, Bubba Wallace.
When he began to talk about the social injustices he believes are happening in both the racing industry and across the country, NASCAR stood with him. The industry is continuing to face these issues in 2021 as NASCAR events are still going on during the pandemic.
Encouraging African-American Community to Attend
“There are people in the African American community that are obviously interested,” says Kamara. “I think it’s more so on our radar now because of what’s been happening over the past, I guess, nine or 10 months. Bubba, the news of him has been everywhere.
“Obviously with NASCAR making the move to ban the flag from their events and from basically their culture and their footprint, that was one huge thing. I probably couldn’t bring myself to a race if that was something I felt like they were supporting. With that being gone, I think that there will be more African American fans and people that are interested.”
Other sports stars, including the legendary basketball player Michael Jordan and Grammy-winning star Armando Perez, who’s better known as Pitbull in pop-culture, are both co-owners of two teams.
Jordan supports 23XI Racing with the brave Bubba Wallace as the driver. Pitbull is part of Trackhouse Racing Team. Another encouraging aspect of the changes in NASCAR races, is Pitbull’s driver, Daniel Suarez, as he is the first Mexican-born driver to ever win a national series NASCAR event.
His Statement Isn’t a Promotion. It’s a Peaceful Viewpoint
“We’ve been hitting it on the head: It’s about diversity,” says Kamara. “Just opening the gates to welcome in new fans and new people that may have had interest but didn’t feel comfortable or people that don’t even understand the sport and maybe indifferent about it but willing to give it a chance. I think there’s a whole new set of possibilities that can come with what’s going on right now.”
He continues to share his love of the sport with other NFL players. When asked if it’s an honest belief by his fellow players, he says, “‘You’ve gotta come, I’m telling you.”
“It’s surprising to me because this is not a sport that, generally, someone I guess like me or looks like me would be into,” he adds. “I’m just being realistic. So for me, going and interacting with the people that are in the suites and that are actually real fans of NASCAR, it was just nice.”
Alvin Kamara Becomes Part of NASCAR
After Kamara’s attendance at Sunday’s Daytona 500 race, the Saints running back makes the decision to become a NASCAR team sponsor. He puts his Louisiana-based juice bar “The Big Squeezy” on NASCAR driver Ryan Vargas’ No. 6 JD Motorsports Chevrolet for the next race. It’s a second-tier Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Kamara says he won’t be missing the race.
“The fast cars are definitely surprising,” says Kamara. “You think they’re going fast on TV, you can say 200 miles per hour, but when you see 200 miles per hour and you feel it and hear it, it’s totally different.
“Hopefully when this COVID thing [and] the restrictions get a little more relaxed and things get a little safer,” he continues. “I’m like, man, I will pay for everybody to come to a race and sit in a suite so you can see what’s going on, or go down by the track and really hear, or just sit in the grandstands and hear the engines start or see the laps. It’s different. It’s a different experience. … You gotta experience it, you gotta be there to really appreciate the sport.”