The National Rifle Association will continue its co-sponsorship of the annual night NASCAR Cup Series summer race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.
Bass Pro Shops and the NRA have co-sponsored the event — the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race — in recent years.
« This has been a good long-standing partnership and we plan to continue, » Bristol Motor Speedway said in a statement Thursday.
Richard Childress, a NASCAR Cup team owner and now first vice president of the NRA, said when the sponsorship was announced in November 2015 that it was designed to attract hunters to the group.
« So many fans are supporters of the NRA, » he said. « They made the right decision putting the NRA back in because so many of our fans are NRA members.
« [Bass Pro Shops founder] Johnny Morris is one of the largest conservationists in the country. … The NRA is involved in a lot in preserving our hunting heritage. We have 5 million members of the NRA; 3 million of them are hunters and outdoorsmen. We’re just trying to get more people to come on board that are hunters that are not members. »
NASCAR approved the Bristol sponsorship at the time and that approval remains unchanged, according to the sanctioning body.
The NRA sponsored the NASCAR Cup race at Texas in 2013 despite calls from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) for the track and NASCAR to drop the naming-rights deal in the months following the 2012 massacre at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Several companies have distanced themselves or dropped business relationships with the NRA in the two weeks since a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, two weeks ago.
In 2013, NASCAR added wording to its sanction agreements that it has the right to disapprove sponsorships.
The current sanction agreement, according to a public filing by Dover International Speedway, states:
« NEM’s [NASCAR Event Management] approval shall not be unreasonably conditioned, delayed or withheld, and NEM further agrees that it will disapprove of a prospective entitlement sponsor only if such prospective entitlement sponsor’s brand has been tarnished by controversy, crisis or circumstance such that its association with the event would damage the NASCAR brand or the image of the sport, or the entitlement sponsor’s brand would violate the network’s broadcast standards or if, because, prospective sponsor’s brand has been tarnished by controversy, crisis or circumstance it would damage the network’s ability to sell advertising for the live event broadcast. »