PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A blond, blue-eyed Puerto Rican driver claims NASCAR excluded him from its "Drive for Diversity" program and derided him as "the poster boy for the Ku Klux Klan" because he doesn't fit its idea of what a minority should be.
Michael Rodriguez says he was unanimously chosen by a NASCAR selection committee to drive in a Combine at South Boston Speedway in Virginia, a two-day event to assess driving skills and train driver for media exposure. But when he arrived, he says, he received nothing but disdain and scorn from event officials, most of whom were black, and he was barred from participating.
Through Drive for Diversity, NASCAR and co-defendant Access Marketing & Communications promised to provide opportunities for female and minority drivers, with the goal of facilitating the trickle-down diversification of NASCAR's audience base.
But Rodriguez says that during a meeting where NASCAR and Access selected drivers, his photo was placed on a projector and one official said, "He is the poster boy for the Ku Klux Klan and we can't have him at the Combine."
Rodriguez seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations. He is represented by Joe Tucker.