A U.S. senator has written to News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, urging him not to air Saturday nights NRA 500 from Texas Motor Speedway on News Corp.'s Fox network.
The National Rifle Association's title sponsorship of the race is "inappropriate in the immediate wake of the Newtown massacre," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, wrote Murdoch on Thursday. "The race not only brings national attention to an organization that has been the face of one side of this heated debate, it also features the live shooting of guns at the end of the race."
The Texas race is the NRA's first title sponsorship of a Sprint Cup race, although it backed a Nationwide Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway last season.
In his letter to Murdoch – which followed his direct appeal to NASCAR against the sponsorship earlier this month – Senator Murphy cited the News Corp. boss' past support for tighter gun control laws. Murphy pointed to what he saw as the "irony" that Fox, by airing the race, would "now essentially endorse the NRA's extreme position against such laws."
In response, NASCAR spokesman David Higdon released a statement that while NASCAR would not change its sponsorship for this weekend, the sanctioning body will consider appropriate timing and perceptions in approving future race sponsorships.
“The NRA's sponsorship of the event at Texas Motor Speedway fit within existing parameters that NASCAR affords tracks in securing partnerships,” the NASCAR statement said. “However, this situation has made it clear that we need to take a closer look at our approval process moving forward, as current circumstances need to be factored in when making decisions.”
NASCAR insisted the race sponsorship should not be taken as approval by the sanctioning body of the NRA's positions on gun control.
“NASCAR has no official position on the gun rights debate,” the NASCAR statement said. “Our fans, racing teams and industry partners come from all walks of life and thus have varying points of views and opinions. As a sport, we are in the business of bringing people together for entertainment, not political debate.”
"I would like to make a similar challenge to you," Murphy told the media mogul in his letter Thursday. "You should play a constructive role in our national dialogue by refraining from broadcasting the NRA 500. By airing this race you will be strengthening the brand of a radical organization that is currently standing in the way of meaningful progress on this issue."
Fox Sports remains under contract with NASCAR to broadcast certain Sprint Cup races.