(You might look at this picture and see a black guy and a white rabbit. But all I see is two cool friends, hanging out. / Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Weinberg)
It was recently announced that UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones would be participating as an honorary race official for the 2012 Daytona 500, which goes down this Sunday, February 26th, at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, and will be broadcast on FOX. “I am thrilled to be able to serve as honorary race official at this year’s Daytona 500, NASCAR’s premier event,” Jones said in a press release. “Like the UFC, NASCAR has a passionate and knowledgeable fan base, and I am honored that I will get to share this experience with them.”
It’s funny…when you think of who the UFC might want to represent them at a high-profile NASCAR race, you’d probably assume it would be a woodsy outdoorsman, or an outspoken right-wing patriot. A white guy, is what I’m saying. Then again, Jones is hands-down one of the UFC’s biggest stars, and he adds some racial diversity to a sporting event that desperately needs it. And I mean desperately.
In case you don’t follow stock-car racing, there haven’t been any black drivers in the highest levels of the sport since Bill Lester left NASCAR in 2007. The Sprint Cup Series has recognized that this is a problem, and has tried to make up for it by launching their Drive for Diversity program, and hiring Lenny Kravitz to perform at Sunday’s pre-race show. So between Jones and Kravitz, they’ve already got 1.5 African-Americans in public positions at the Daytona 500.
So what will Jones be doing in his honorary role? We’re not exactly sure. He definitely won’t be starting the race, though — that honor goes to WWE veteran John Cena. Forget the racial angle for a minute, and consider that UFC champions are still dealing with a different glass ceiling. No matter how successful you become as a cage-fighter, you’re still a second-class citizen compared to an aging pro wrestler. Shame on you, society.