Brandon Brown won't be capitalizing on his "Let's Go Brandon" fame on the side of his Xfinity Series car.
Per multiple reports, NASCAR will not allow Brown to run a sponsorship from a Let's Go Brandon cryptocurrency on his car in 2022. Brown's team announced last week that it had secured a full-season deal with LGBCoin to be on its car in the second-tier Xfinity Series.
NASCAR immediately said that the team's announcement was premature and made the decision Tuesday to bar the sponsorship from happening.
NASCAR has made the final decision that the LGBcoin sponsorship for Brandon Brown is not an approved sponsorship to be on the car.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) January 5, 2022
The phrase "Let's Go Brandon" took off as a euphemism for "F*** Joe Biden" after Brown got the first win of his career at Talladega in October. Fans in the grandstands were heard on the race broadcast chanting the latter phrase about the president while Brown was interviewed on the track after the race. Kelli Stavast, the NBC reporter interviewing Brown, was wearing over-the-ear headphones and made a reference to fans chanting "Let's Go Brandon."
Once clips of the interview were posted to social media channels, the right-wing information ecosystem immediately turned "Let's Go Brandon" into a rallying cry and inside joke.
Brown attempted to steer clear of associating himself with the phrase after it became heavily politicized and even wrote an op-ed in Newsweek in December in an attempt to frame himself as apolitical. Less than two weeks after the op-ed was published, Brown and his team embraced the slogan and announced the sponsorship from the coin that has "no intrinsic value."
The team's embrace of the phrase came after NASCAR president Steve Phelps made it clear in November that NASCAR was not thrilled with the phrase and its associations with the sanctioning body. Phelps said NASCAR would go after anyone using NASCAR marks in LGB-themed merchandise.
"We do not want to associate ourselves with politics, the left or the right," Phelps said before the final race of the season. "We obviously have and we've always had as a sport tremendous respect for the office of the president no matter who is sitting.
"I think it's an unfortunate situation. Do we like the fact that it kind of started with NASCAR and then is gaining ground elsewhere? No, we're not happy about that. But we will continue to make sure that we have respect for the office of the president."
According to The Athletic, NASCAR told the team in November that any sponsorship deal that was associated with the phrase wouldn't be approved.
Further context: NASCAR told Brandonbilt in November it wouldn't approve any Let's Go Brandon sponsorship. Team submitted request over Christmas w/o specifying it was a political thing (just listed as crypto). NASCAR initially missed that part, but was never going to be approved. https://t.co/4DEobLQusD
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) January 5, 2022
NASCAR has tried to thread an apolitical line after hosting former president Donald Trump at the 2020 Daytona 500. Trump's appearance became a de facto campaign rally before the race and he took a lap around the track in the presidential limo.
Months later, amid the social and racial justice movements that swept the nation, NASCAR banned fans from flying the Confederate flag at its tracks.
Team had publicly contended NASCAR approved the deal
Despite that reported November message from NASCAR, Brown and his mid-tier team have contended since the announcement that NASCAR approved the sponsorship before its announcement.
Tuesday afternoon, just before NASCAR's lack of approval became public, the founder of the coin posted a screenshot of an email on Dec. 26 from someone at NASCAR that said the sponsorship was approved. The social media post included the name and contact information of the person at NASCAR who replied and said that the sponsor was approved.
The email to NASCAR was also posted in the coin founder's tweet. In it, the team asked for paint scheme approval and listed the coin as a cryptocurrency. While it seems obvious what "LGBCoin" meant — and would have been easily figured out with a simple search — there was no direct reference to the three-word phrase outside of the acronym.
It's also worth noting that sponsor approval and paint scheme approval isn't always mutually exclusive. NASCAR has not approved paint schemes for approved sponsors in the past. It's also now clear if the person who was in contact with the team didn't have the authority to fully approve both the sponsor and the paint scheme. It's not uncommon for something approved at a lower level in a large company to be axed by those higher up the company ladder.
And in case you're wondering, here's what the Xfinity Series rulebook says regarding sponsorship approvals.
“NASCAR may refuse to permit a competitor to participate in an event if NASCAR determines that any advertising, sponsorship, or similar agreement to which the competitor is or will be a party, is detrimental to the sport, to NASCAR, series sponsor, or to the promotor for any reason, including without limitation, the public image of the sport.
Decals, advertising slogans, paint schemes, and other graphic designs and text on the vehicle that have not been previously approved by NASCAR must not be used unless and until they have been submitted by the crew chief to NASCAR headquarters and approved by NASCAR prior to the event. The review and approval of decals, advertising slogans, paint schemes and other graphic designs and text on the vehicle that have not been previously approved by NASCAR is at the sole discretion of NASCAR and such approval may be withheld for any reason. All NASCAR members agree to accept NASCAR’s decision in this regard.
It's likely not a coincidence that the coin's value tanked in the hours before NASCAR's decision was made public.
What's next for Brown?
After choosing to associate themselves directly with the slogan, Brown and his team made the conscious choice to get political. That choice was made less than two weeks after a New York Times story that included this quote from Brown.
“Our whole navigation is, you want to appeal to everybody, because, all in all, everybody is a consumer,” Mr. Brown said after our drive. “I have zero desire to be involved in politics.”
Brown was either lying to The New York Times when he said those words or he had a quick change of heart. Once you become political in a sponsor-driven series like NASCAR, it's impossible to be apolitical again. And Brown appeared to have realized that. The team had recently retained the services of a public relations representative from a crisis management firm.
Brown may find himself in an untenable situation too. He's now without the full-season sponsorship that his team has craved for years and any company wary of associating themselves with the euphemism won't consider spending money with his team. That's not a great combination less than two months from the start of the 2022 season. And Brown and his team have no one else to blame but themselves if they tried to pull a fast one on NASCAR after that November meeting.