Ray Ciccarelli says he hasn’t slept and is physically exhausted after a post on his personal Facebook page sparked a social media firestorm this week (click here to read Ciccarelli’s controversial Facebook Post), but he is preparing to contest the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the No. 49 entry for his CMI Motorsports team.
The 50-year old part-time NGROTS owner/driver fired off his opinion regarding NASCAR’s new protocols when it comes to kneeling during the national anthem and the ban of the Confederate Flag.
In an exclusive interview with TobyChristie.com, the Maryland-native, who feels his thoughts were misrepresented, set his sights on setting the record straight.
“I wasn’t raised the way people are portraying me to be. That’s just not me,” Ciccarelli stated. “I am not that type of person. Just the attack — my wife, my family have been attacked and abused on social media. It’s just heartbreaking.”
In the wake of the backlash for his brash opinion, Ciccarelli doesn’t regret hitting the “Post” button on his now-deactivated Facebook page, rather he regrets how his opinions were misunderstood.
“I regret how it was misconstrued,” said Ciccarelli. “I don’t regret my feelings of believing in the national anthem and standing. I don’t like the fact that I was misconstrued about defending the Confederate flag. Because in no way shape or form was I defending the Confederate flag.
“Everything I was saying was the fact that I understand both sides’ feelings toward the flag. My viewpoint, all I was trying to say is how do you take (the flag) from one group and help support the group that it offends and then what do you do to the group that you took it from? Now, they get outraged.”
In addition to being upset that NASCAR potentially alienated some current fans by banning a symbol that carries a racist connotation for current and potentially new African-American fans, Ciccarelli, admitted that his gripe isn’t with the ban on the flag from NASCAR facilities. His gripe also isn’t with the fact that people are now allowed to kneel during the anthem, instead, the thing that, “triggered,” him was the fact that NASCAR is constantly changing their stance.
“I guess I was just sitting there. I had seen the news thing come through referring to, NASCAR now allows you to kneel during the anthem, It just irritated me some,” Ciccarelli explained. “I believe in standing for the national anthem, and I believe that if you want to kneel during the anthem , you should kneel. It just kind of triggered me, because we’re being told you can’t kneel, now you can kneel. It just set me off.
“We’re told one thing that we can’t do, then you’re told you can do. Just to go back, about two years during the (Colin) Kaepernick deal, NASCAR did release a statement stating that team owners should take action to any teammates that decide to kneel during the national anthem. It was not going to be condoned what-so-ever.”
Part of the frustration, Ciccarelli explains, is the fact that there was no warning from NASCAR before the changes in policy were enacted.
“(It) just came out of left field,” Ciccarelli said.
Part of what got Ciccarelli’s blood boiling in the fateful moment he constructed the Facebook post, which led to the little underdog racer being a trending topic on Twitter — for all of the wrong reasons — is that he knows many people who have fought to protect the United States flag.
“My family and friends have all been in the military and protect our country every day. That’s why out flag means so much to me, personally,” Ciccarelli expressed.
While Ciccarelli’s post led to outrage among many in the NASCAR and many more outsiders of the sport, he reiterates that he never meant any offense to anybody.
“I feel everybody has a right to their opinion. And that was my opinion. I believe people can kneel, and protest and do what they love and support and all that. I wasn’t trying to offend anybody. That’s not something that I wanted to do in any shape or form.”
Ciccarelli, who is honest about his lack of understanding of technology that isn’t related to a race car, just wants to get this situation behind him so he can keep living out a dream that he had of being a NASCAR driver when he was a young child.
“I just wanted to set the record truly straight so we can get this behind us,” he said. “This was a very educational learning experience.”
While we are setting the record straight, will Ciccarelli really sell off his CMI Motorsports team as he threatened in his Facebook post?
“That’s TBA,” he said.