A government watchdog group is calling on NASCAR to cut ties with the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in response to the cable news host’s comments about police in the wake of the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the questionable financial activities at his nonprofit groups.
The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) asked NASCAR to "end its financial support of Al Sharpton and his organization" in a letter to CEO Brian France on Monday. NASCAR has previously been a sponsor of NAN’s annual conference, a key fundraising event for Sharpton’s group, according to the NLPC.
"The cold-blooded murder of two New York City police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, followed weeks of Sharpton's vilification of law enforcement personnel. Now two police officers have been gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri," wrote NLPC president Peter Flaherty in the letter. "Mr. France, police lives matter. You can demonstrate your support for law enforcement by ending your support for Sharpton without delay."
NASCAR did not immediately comment on whether it still contributes to NAN and whether it would cut off support.
Sharpton helped organize citywide protests and criticized law enforcement officials in response to two fatal shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers last year. At the height of the demonstrations, two New York Police Department officers were murdered by a gunman in alleged retaliation. Sharpton denounced the attack, but critics claimed he helped inflame tensions that led to the shooting.
NAN recently came under scrutiny after the New York Post reported that it accepted a large donation from a Connecticut hedge fund that was backing a casino bid in New York. State investigators uncovered emails between lobbyists for the bid, in which they claimed Sharpton was lobbying the governor on their behalf.
The NLPC noted criticism of Sharpton’s financial activities in its letter.
"According to the New York Times and other sources, NAN has failed to pay millions of dollars in taxes," wrote Flaherty. "NASCAR may purport that its support of NAN is used to promote ‘civil rights,’ but Sharpton himself has admitted that current NAN revenues are being used to pay years-old tax obligations. NASCAR would not tolerate such a lack of financial accountability from any other grant recipient, vendor, business partner or sponsor."
A spokesperson for Sharpton said the reverend was not concerned about the NLPC letter, saying the group has sent similar letters in the past.
"They send it to a bunch of folks, and basically nobody really pays attention to it," said spokesperson Jacky Johnson. "In fact we've gotten more support."