(CN) – The CEO of newly-formed stock car racing team claims in court that NASCAR discriminates by intentionally preventing the sponsorship of black drivers.
In a lawsuit filed in the Western District of North Carolina, Terrance Alton Cox III says that since 1963 only one black driver has won a race in NASCAR’s top-tier racing division, and only two others have ever competed in a top-tier NASCAR race.
Cox says in his Dec. 14 complaint that he co-founded Diversity Motorsports Racing, LLC to begin to rectify that, but to date, NASCAR has not only refused to work with him, but it has blocked the organization for gaining corporate sponsorship — a prerequisite to driving in a NASCAR-sanctioned event.
It’s the second complaint Cox has filed against the motorsport giant in recent months. In September he filed a $500 million racial bias suit against the organization.
Cox, who is the CEO of Eko Custom Sandals, says he first reached out to NASCAR in March 2009, when he spoke with its vice president of public affairs, Marcus Jadotte, and its director of multicultural development, Dawn Harris, about implementing diversity initiative though the racing organization’s Drive for Diversity program.
Jadotte advised Cox to start from the bottom by working with Go-Kart and then build up to work with “big cars.”
Cox says he landed the position of director of marketing with The Pit Indoor Kart Racing organization in Mooresville, N.C., and in that role launched “One Race, One World” initiative in May 2009.
He launched Diversity Motorsports Racing the following year with Bob Scachat, a racing veteran with 42 years of experience in the industry.
The organization’s focus was to engage with minority community and bridge the diversity gap that is present in the motorsports industry, the complaint says.
In July 2011, Diversity Motor Sports’ first entry won the Subway Firecracker 250 at a Nationwide Series event race in Daytona, Fla.
Cox says he subsequently met with NASCAR vice Chair Mike Helton, to discuss a proposal to work with Drive for Diversity. Helton recommended Cox contact Max Siegel of Rev Racing, which bills itself on its website as the “home of the Drive for Diversity.”
Cox claims he tried to contact Siegel for six months before giving up in frustration. He says that as a result of failing to reach Siegel his business was denied the opportunity to participate in the program.
Cox says he and his CFO, Adrian Sinden, again met with Jadotte and Harris, telling them their company was now ready to go to the next level and work with NASCAR. He says that he and Sinden didn’t ask for anything other than that NASCAR publicly support Diversity Motorsports’ racing for education program.
Cox says Jadotte assured him he’d find sponsors for the program, but that in reality, NASCAR did nothing about sponsorships and in fact, intentionally prevented them from getting critical corporate support.
According to the complaint, Diversity Motorsports and Bob Schacht’s namesake company, Bob Schacht Motorsports, launched a campaign in the fall of 2011 called the “Racing for Alzheimer’s Awareness Program,” and asked several corporations, including Staples, RBC Bank, and the William Morris Agency to be sponsors. Cox claims NASCAR stepped in and dissuaded them from participating, forcing the initiative to be dropped.
Cox claims a similar scenario played out in 2014 when he entered into talks with the National Guard Youth Foundation to sponsor a racing program for underprivileged youth.
Cox says the contract was worth an estimated $26 million, but it too fell by the wayside after a NASCAR executive suggested to a foundation board member that it would not view the partnership favorably.
Undeterred, Cox says he later approached NASCAR executive to discuss yet another diversity program. This time, he claims, he received a letter from NASCAR’s legal department declining to participate in the program and asking him and Diversity Motorsports to refrain from any further contact.
Cox also claims that NASCAR dissuaded former Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Clark Haggans from signing a contract with his organization and instead encouraged Haggans to associate with Dale Earnhardt and Tony Stewart, both white, instead.
Cox says he has attempted to work with NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, launched in 2004, by creating numerous programs designed to bridge the racial gap between NASCAR, the motorsports industry, and the African American community.
Time and time again, Cox alleges, NASCAR executives initially expressed interest in the programs, but ultimately refused to participate and at times even sabotaged Cox’s efforts to further diversity in NASCAR.
Finally, he claims, NASCAR’s attorneys sent him a letter requesting he make no further contact with the organization.
Cox says he now believes the Drive for Diversity program is a sham concocted by NASCAR to cloak its discriminatory practices.
He seeks $500 million in compensatory and punitive damages, and a court order directing NASCAR to take definitive steps to promote racial diversity.
Cox is represented by Geraldine Sumter, of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Ronald Patrowitz, of New York.
Representatives of NASCAR did not immediately respond to an email Tuesday seeking comment.