As two of Hendrick Motorsports’ four drivers prepare to compete for the NASCAR Cup Series championship at Phoenix Raceway this weekend, team owner Rick Hendrick was asked to address a long-term contract extension with Liberty University, which was finalized and announced just before the institution came under scrutiny for the way it handles student reports of sexual harassment and assault.
On October 15th, the championship-winning organization announced a five-year contract extension with Liberty University, which would see the Christian school continue to cover approximately one-third of the sponsorship inventory for 23-year-old William Byron, a two-time NASCAR Cup Series winner, through at least 2026.
At the time of the announcement, Hendrick said: “We’re delighted to continue our work with Liberty University. The partnership impacts so many different areas, and I believe we’re just scratching the surface of the value we’re able to deliver. We look forward to working together over the next five years to take it to the next level.”
Just nine days after the organization’s official announcement (October 24), a published report by ProPublica outlined accusations against Liberty University, in which the school’s faculty discouraged students from reporting instances of sexual assault/violence, while completely dismissing some student reports of an assault. Earlier this year, twelve women filed a lawsuit against the Christian institution, holding accusations of a pattern of mishandling cases of sexual assault and harassment, while also fostering an unsafe environment on campus.
The accusations against the school come shortly after Jerry Fallwell Jr. resigned from his position – president of LibertyU — last year, apologizing for posting a vacation photo with his pants unzipped and his arm around the waist of his wife’s pregnant assistant. The photograph in question was taken from a boat owned by the NASCAR Cup Series team owner. However, Hendrick, nor any employees of Hendrick Motorsports were on-board at the time.
In a Championship Weekend media availability on Tuesday, the 72-year-old was asked whether or not the “bad press” that the university was facing has led to any hesitations about going through with the two parties’ newly-signed extension.
“No,” Hendrick firmly responded. “They’re great people up there, they’ll get it worked out. That’s a situation that is unfortunate, but they will get it resolved and move on.”
Liberty University has been one of Byron’s most prominent backers and will enter their ninth season as a major supporter of the Charlotte, North Carolina-native’s racing efforts in 2022. Most notably, the institution’s branding has been present for the majority of the playoff contender’s accomplishments, including championships in the K&N Pro Series East (2015), and the NASCAR Xfinity Series (2017).
“I’ve spoken to several of them,” Hendrick continued. “They’re really good people. Things that happened years ago, whenever it did happen, they’ll make it right and move on. Things like that, I mean, when you have — it’s not pleasant, but they’re dealing with it. They’re being very upfront, very transparent.”
While some fans have called for Hendrick Motorsports to end their partnership with Liberty University, Hendrick explicitly stated on Tuesday that the team hasn’t faced any negative repercussions from the continuance of the partnership, to this point.