NASCAR accused of racial discrimination in $500M lawsuit

A Georgia man has filed a $500 million race discrimination lawsuit against NASCAR and its race teams, claiming his attempts to make NASCAR more racially diverse were rebuffed by the sanctioning body.

Terrance Cox III, who operated Diversity Motorsports Racing and who founded a group to protest what it views as injustices of NASCAR by sponsors and team owners toward the minority community, filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in New York.

Cox claims that NASCAR, racetrack operator International Speedway Corp. and its race teams have not made any efforts to have corporate sponsors support an African-American team. That lack of corporate sponsors is an "almost insurmountable obstacle to the integration of NASCAR," according to the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, Cox's potential sponsors were encouraged by NASCAR to not work with him but instead associate themselves with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart. It also refused to promote various programs Cox created to help make NASCAR more diverse, the lawsuit stated, and that his efforts to work with the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program were ignored.

In one allegation, Cox said that he talked with media personality Steve Harvey about creating "Steve Harvey Races 4 Education" and NASCAR ruined the potential deal by telling Harvey it would not sanction any race team associated with Cox.

Cox claims that NASCAR and its teams have "engaged in unlawful intentional racial discrimination by refusing to sanction African-American owned racing teams ... and by refusing to hire African-American drivers for its racing teams."

In a statement, NASCAR defended its Drive for Diversity program -- which has been in place since 2004 -- and said it will fight the lawsuit.

"NASCAR embraces all individuals interested and involved in our sport, whether as partners, fans, competitors or employees, and there is no merit to this lawsuit," the statement said. "NASCAR has a long-standing history of investing in diversity efforts including the NASCAR Drive for Diversity, NASCAR Diversity Internship and NASCAR Diversity Pit Crew Development programs. ... We stand behind our actions, and will not let a publicity-seeking legal action deter us from our mission.

"NASCAR not only will defend our organization against these meritless allegations, but we will be asserting our own claims against Mr. Cox for his defamatory actions."

Cox also is founder of the Minority Youth Matters Movement, whose website lists its mission as to "enlighten the American public, the corporate sponsors, NASCAR teams, and owners on the disproportion of sponsorship dollars dedicated to minority NASCAR teams, employment, educational programs and opportunities to race in all series." It has issued news releases about possible protests at NASCAR events and tweets often alleging racism in NASCAR.

"We established these [diversity] programs to create opportunities for women and minorities, and embrace people of all backgrounds, within the industry," NASCAR said in its statement. "Diversity both on and off the track continues to be a top priority for NASCAR and its stakeholders."

NASCAR has one full-time African-American driver in its three national series -- Roush Fenway Racing driver Darrell Wallace Jr., who competes in the Xfinity Series. Its national series team ownership includes JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Brad Daugherty (an ESPN basketball analyst) and Xfinity Series team owner Victor Obaika.