Race track announcer ousted after going on racist rant over loudspeaker

An Iowa speedway announcer has been fired after going on a racist rant against Black athletes and fans who kneel during the national anthem.

The Kossuth County Speedway in Algona, Iowa, said comments made by the announcer before the races on July 15 “were not OK, and it will not be happening again”.

The announcer, whose identity has not been confirmed, told the crowd he wanted to make “a social service announcement” before the national anthem, The Associated Press reported.

He condemned those who “won’t stand for our flag” or who “take a knee” during the anthem.

“I’ve got four words for you: Find a different country if you won’t do it,” he said. “Get the hell out of dodge.”

Cheers were audible in the crowd as he spoke.

The announcer added that he was outraged that the NFL is apparently considering playing the Black national anthem before games this season “for those folks, I guess the darker toned skin color, I’ll just say, Blacks.”

“They want a different national anthem and the NFL is thinking about doing it,” he said. “I just say shut the TVs off and let them play in front of nobody.”

The speedway didn’t name the announcer or respond to a request for his name. But Fairmont Raceway in Fairmont, Minnesota, identified him on its Facebook page as its longtime track announcer, Lon Oelke.

The announcer’s comments were broadcast on FloRacing, which provides livestreams of racing events. FloRacing said in a statement on Thursday that it had removed the event broadcast and that the announcer’s “opinions and language do not reflect our core values or have a place on our platform”.

A video of the racist comments posted to Twitter was later taken down.

In a statement, the Kossuth County Speedway said its management had not heard the remarks when they were made, and that they only came to their attention through a social media post earlier Thursday.

The speedway said the man who made the comments was filling in for its lead announcer and would not be employed at any future track events.

“Kossuth County Speedway looks forward to proving to our fans, drivers and crews that we can and will do better.”

However, Fairmont Raceway promoter Jon McCorkell wrote that Mr Oelke would “absolutely be announcing” races Friday night and would receive a standing ovation before the national anthem.

Mr McCorkell added that he agreed “with all of Lon’s comments and opinions”.

The National Racing Network, which broadcasts speedway meetings, issued a statement disavowing Mr McCorkell for his support of an “overtly racist commentator”.

“If you support what was said, if you feel the need to direct negativity against FloRacing or the track that has disavowed his comments, do us the favour and unfollow and unlike our social channels.

“There is no place for hatred, racism, or bigotry in our sport. We don’t want you as a fan. We don’t want your money or support. We want everyone to feel comfortable in the stands and watching our content.

A listed phone number for Mr Oelke was disconnected, and he didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry sent by the Associated Press through Facebook Messenger.

The Associated Press contributed to reporting.


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