NASCAR accused of racial discrimination in $500 million lawsuit

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A scene from this year's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Photo by Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports

A scene from this year’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Photo by Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR is being sued for $500 million on the grounds of racial discrimination. The racing organization quickly responded, calling the lawsuit “meritless” and threatening to file a countersuit for defamation.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan on behalf of Diversity Motorsports Racing, a company dedicated to increasing diversity in racing, and the company’s CEO.

The plaintiffs accused NASCAR of blocking African American-owned teams and drivers from competing in the sport. NASCAR’s parent company International Speedway Corp and several other racing teams were also named in the lawsuit.

“In 2016, motorsports remain the most racially segregated sport in the United States,” the complaint read. “NASCAR and ISC have been complicit in, and supportive of, the racially discriminatory environment that virtually excludes African Americans from meaningful participation” in the sport, it added.

Specifically, the lawsuit accused NASCAR of repeatedly refusing to work with Diversity Motorsports, citing its own diversity program, “Drive for Diversity.” The plaintiffs also said that none of the 48 drivers in the 2016 Sprint Cup is African American. For NASCAR’s Xfinity Series, only one of the drivers is African American, they said.

Elsewhere, the complaint said NASCAR rejected a proposal to create a team with comedian Steve Harvey called “Steve Harvey Races 4 Education.”

But after news of the lawsuit broke, Harvey took to his morning show to vehemently deny he agreed to sponsor a race car team.

“I don’t want no damn race team, I don’t even like fast ass cars,” Harvey said.

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Harvey said he told Diversity Motorsports he would advocate for underprivileged youth being exposed to car racing, but did not support anything more involved.

In response to the lawsuit, NASCAR said it plans to file a countersuit against Diversity Motorsports CEO Terrance Cox for “his defamatory actions.”.

“NASCAR embraces all individuals interested and involved in our sport,” NASCAR said in a statement to NewsHour. “We stand behind our actions, and will not let a publicity-seeking legal action deter us from our mission,” the organization added.

The lawsuit said Diversity Motorsports is seeking $75 million in compensatory damages and $425 million in punitive damages.

Read the full lawsuit below:

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