Iowa race track cuts ties with announcer after racist rant

Jul 22, 2021, 1:23 AM | Updated: 9:09 pm

ALGONA, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa race track said Thursday that it will cut ties with an announcer who went on a racist rant against Black fans and athletes who kneel during the national anthem as a protest against racial inequality.

The Kossuth County Speedway in Algona, Iowa, said its leaders “do not condone” the comments made by the announcer before the races on July 15, but it called them an isolated incident.

The speedway and the county’s fair board said its management did not hear the announcer’s comments when he said them, and that they only came to their attention through a social media post earlier Thursday.

In its statement, 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.

“It was not okay, and it will not be happening again,” the statement said. “Kossuth County Speedway looks forward to proving to our fans, drivers and crews that we can and will do better.”

The announcer’s comments were broadcast on FloRacing, which provides livestreams of racing events. FloRacing said in a statement 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.”

In video posted Thursday on Twitter, the announcer told the crowd he wanted to make “a social service announcement” before the national anthem. 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 in the crowd can be heard at that point. The announcer added that he was outraged that the NFL is 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.

Fairmont Raceway promoter Jon McCorkell wrote that Oelke would “absolutely be announcing” races Friday night and would receive a standing ovation before the national anthem. McCorkell added that he agreed “with all of Lon’s comments and opinions” and several commenters chimed in with praise for Oelke.

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

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Iowa race track cuts ties with announcer after racist rant