Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, has agreed to buy a NASCAR Cup Series Charter. Jordan, who already owns the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, is the only Black majority owner in any of the five North American major professional sports leagues, and the second-ever NASCAR Black majority owner.
Current NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin will be a minority owner and driver forJordan’s new NASCAR team. Jordan and Hamlin met courtside at a Charlotte Bobcats (now Charlotte Hornets) game and developed a friendship over the following years. Hamlin signed an endorsement deal with Jordan’s brand, displaying the Jumpman logo on his racing suit and wearing Jordan’s customized racing shoes.
Jordan’s University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill teammate Brad Daugherty originally introduced him to NASCAR. “[Jordan] always gave me a hard time about being a hillbilly and all of that. But you know what? He would also sit there and watch with me. He liked it. He always did,” Daugherty told ESPN. Yet, there is a significant difference between Daugherty and Jordan. Daugherty is a NASCAR co-owner, and his drivers are white, like the majority of NASCAR. The only full-time Black driver in the Cup Series, the highest level in NASCAR, is Bubba Wallace. Jordan, the only Black majority owner of a NASCAR team, commissioned Wallace to be the driver of his new team.
The details for Wallace’s car have not yet been released, but the car will most likely be a Toyota, Hamlin’s customary choice. Any potential sponsorship deals are still undecided. Wallace is an attractive driver to sponsor not only for the national attention he got this summer, but also for his talent: He is only 26 years old and had his best ever season this past year. Five of his nine career top-10 finishes came in the most recent season, where he finished 23rd overall.
This year, Wallace raced amid increased tensions regarding systemic racism. He has become a leader in forcing NASCAR, a predominantly white institution, to reexamine their limited efforts in promoting racial equality. On June 10, NASCAR released a statement saying that they would ban fans from displaying the Confederate flag at all NASCAR events and properties. “The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” the statement read. This came after Wallace told CNN that NASCAR should “get rid of all Confederate flags.”
Wallace hopes to further the progress made this year when he suits up to race as the only Black driver in a car owned by Michael Jordan, the only Black majority owner.