NASCAR has said that it plans to pay closer attention to race sponsorships after a fan shot himself in the head during a race that was sponsored by the National Rifle Association on Saturday.
Kirk Franklin, of Saginaw, Texas, died on Saturday at the NRA 500 Spring Cup at Texas Motor Speedway, in what has been ruled a suicide, according to Reuters. Fort Worth police said that Franklin, 42, shot himself in the head after engaging in an argument with other fans who were camping out at the Sprint Cup race.
Cpl. Tracey Knight, a police spokesman, said that there had been several witnesses and that alcohol may have been involved in the incident. The police report stated that Franklin’s body was found in the back seat of a pickup in the infield campground. He was pronounced dead at 10:48 p.m.
The event was the NRA’s first sponsorship of a Sprint Cup race, but it may be their last. NASCAR, which says it doesn't take a position on gun rights, has already begun doing damage control in the fallout from the incident. After Franklin’s death, PR reps instructed at least two NASCAR drivers not to conduct interviews in the speedway’s media center in order to duck NRA logos, ESPN reported.
NASCAR has also announced that it plans to re-evaluate its race sponsorships.
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"The NRA's sponsorship of the event at Texas Motor Speedway fit within existing parameters that NASCAR affords tracks in securing partnerships," NASCAR spokesman, David Higdon, 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."
The Texas Motorway Speedway’s President, Eddie Gossage, denied that there had been a “public outcry over the sponsorship,” saying that he didn’t think the sponsorship would bother local fans.
“This isn’t a sponsorship that would work if you were at Sears Point Raceway [in Sonoma, Calif.],” Gossage said. “We’re Texas Motor Speedway and I know what works here and what doesn’t. This isn’t an issue here.”
He added, “It’s just not a big deal to the public. … The public isn’t having a problem.”
Gossage’s remarks came after Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy petitioned Fox not to broadcast the race, in protest of the NRA’s criticism of some recent gun control measures.
“This celebration of guns is inappropriate in the immediate wake of the Newtown massacre,” Murphy said in a statement. “But most importantly, broadcasting this race, which will highlight the NRA and its radical agenda during this time, sends a harmful signal to the families affected by gun violence, as well as the millions of Americans who support sensible gun control measures and enjoy your sports programming.”
Gossage reportedly laughed off the idea, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. “I think Rupert Murdoch will see it for what it is,” he said. “I appreciate, personally, a publicity effort — I really do. That’s two times he’s bit at this apple and gotten himself some publicity both times.”