FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 13: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates by shooting revolvers in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 13, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas. Credit: (Credit too long, see caption)
If you thought that the media was fueling an anti-NRA bias in the wake of the group sponsoring a NASCAR race in Texas, the Associated Press (AP), ESPN, and even reportedly Fox fueled that theory with their handling of the race's coverage.
The AP wrote an entire article without referencing the race's official name, the NRA 500. ESPN's live, 1am ET edition of SportsCenter did the same thing. TheBlaze also received several tips from those who watched the race on Fox's local affiliates saying the network, too, seemed to be erasing the NRA from it's paid-for position.
But further examination reveals that the three outlets seem to have been simply keeping in line with the way they've recently handled official race names, specifically when looking at last week's race in Martinsville as a comparison.
The coverage and complaints
The AP's recap of the NRA 500, titled "Kyle Busch gets NASCAR weekend sweep at Texas," references "Texas Motor Speedway" and "Saturday night in the Sprint Cup race," while also mentioning the controversy surrounding the "National Rifle Association." But it never goes on to mention the full race name.
Similarly, on Saturday's early morning recap of the race on ESPN the anchors used more generic references to the race being in Texas. Likewise, the network's graphics never showed the race's correct, full name. Here's the official version on the ESPN YouTube channel:
And here's a more complete version:
"Fox NASCAR broadcast hasn't mentioned the ACTUAL name of the race tonight (NRA 500) once since the race began," one tipper told TheBlaze in extending the critique toward Fox. "Only mentioning sprint cup series, Texas Motor Speedway, etc. Also not using ANY NRA 500 graphics for their broadcast."
"Not only did FOX avoid saying or showing 'NRA 500? tonight, but they changed the name of the race on the TV screen," another said. "After the race, the scroll bar with the results was titled 'Texas 500 Unofficial Results.' It should have been titled 'NRA 500 Unofficial Results.'"*
But when compared to last week...
Upon further examination, The AP's non-use might not be that odd. In it's recap of last week's context at Martinsville, the AP did not use that race's official name, the STP Gas Booster 500.
"No matter the changes to the car, the tires, or the weather, Martinsville Speedway is Jimmie Johnson's kind of place," that story's introduction says. "Johnson led a career-best 346 laps Sunday and pulled away on a restart with eight laps to go for his eighth career victory on the shortest track in the Sprint Cup Series, taking over third place on the career victories list on NASCAR's oldest track."
And this is how the story on the NRA 500 begins:
Kyle Busch was just trying to maintain the pace behind Martin Truex Jr. while waiting for his chance.
The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team pounced when the yellow flag came out with 21 laps to go at Texas Motor Speedway.
Busch finally regained the lead on pit road during that caution then held on for the final 16 laps after the last restart Saturday night in the Sprint Cup race, completing a NASCAR weekend sweep.
As for ESPN, while recapping last week's Martinsville race on air, the network did not mention the name "STP Gas Booster 500?:
Additionally, in a post-race interview with Busch the initials "NRA" as well as the race's NRA logo are visible over his left shoulder. (ESPN had earlier reported that two racers were told not to conduct interviews in the track's media center to avoid appearing with the NRA log -- it appears Busch wasn't one of them.)
So what about Fox?
An initial review of video from last week's finish in Martinsville, Virginia, reveals that Fox referred to those results as the "Martinsville 500 unofficial results," which would mirror the way our tipster says Fox proceeded on Saturday:
Screen shot from Fox's coverage of the Spring Cup race at Martinsville on April 7.
Also, the introduction show of last week's race didn't include that Martinsville race's official name either:
A screen shot showing how Fox referred to the STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville on April 7.
And finally, it appears there are several races that Fox doesn't refer to by the sponsorship name when we compared the Fox race schedule with the official NASCAR schedule. It's unclear what determines when or why the Fox schedule will refer to some sponsor-named races but not others.
Still, it should be pointed out that USA Today did not shy away from using the full name for Saturday's race -- it mentioned the "NRA 500? in both its headline and its introduction, while even including a picture of winner Kyle Busch taking part in the Texas track's tradition of the winner firing blanks from revolvers in the winner's circle:
A screen shot of how USA Today covered the results of the NRA 500.
So did the outlets intentionally ignore the NRA and its sponsorship? It seems they at least kept in line with last week's precedent.
But then again, maybe they were all breathing a sigh of a relief that such a precedent existed.
*Editor's note: TheBlaze cannot confirm nor deny our tipsters' claims that no mentions were made of the "NRA 500? during broadcast, but the point of our story is to note that at key parts of the race, not mentioning the name seems to fall in line with previous races.
According to the Associated Press's 2010 style book, the guide says to name sponsors. From the book:
Sports Sponsorship: If the sponsor's name is part of the event name, such as the Buick Open, use the name in the title. If there is a previously established name commonly accepted for the event -- Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl - use that name even if there currently is a corporate sponsor. orange Bowl, not FedEx Orange Bowl. However, mention the sponsor somewhere in the story or in a self-contained paragraph after a 3-em dash at the bottom of the story.
It's unclear if the style guide has changed on this subject since 2010, but TheBlaze has reached out to the Associated Press for clarification.
Additionally, Blaze reader Richard C., claiming to have "worked in motorsports tv for around 20 years," writes to say that race sponsors do not necessarily automatically get TV mentions. He explains:
The deal is this: the track sells sponsorship of the race, for track naming rights only. If the track sponsor (NRA) wants the whole on air naming and graphics and such, they have to buy a minimum ad buy or race name rights from the network. This has come up several times in Nascar, with the last time I remember was at Atlanta (coincidentally a Speedway Motorsports owned track) a few years ago. So the real question is, did NRA (of which I am a member) buy ad time or television naming rights, not if Fox was censoring.
If true, that's a good question. We've reached out to the NRA with it.