“I thought it was funny,” Hamlin said. “Also, he’s insensitive. I understand.”
He did not laugh long. NASCAR and the scores of fans and casual observers who have criticized Hamlin for linking the origins of Larson – who is half Japanese – with the offensive stereotype associated with Asian drivers certainly didn’t find the meme funny.
Hamlin is heading to NASCAR-mandated sensitivity training after he posted the anti-Asian meme from the TV comedy “Family Guy” to criticize Larson’s driving last weekend on the final lap of the Talladega Superspeedway.
“I respect their decision,” Hamlin said on Saturday at Dover Motor Speedway. “I understand their position with him.”
Hamlin deleted the tweet Monday night and apologized.
Larson moved over the multi-lane track in an aggressive motion that caused a wreck in Talladega.
“I saw the link in the drive,” Hamlin said. “That was the case.” “I didn’t think twice about the other [part]. This is the insensitive part, isn’t it? Whoever made it, I think, put his name to an Asian speaking woman. I think you’re making fun of that.”
Hamlin is a three-time Daytona 500 winner who drives a Toyota Joe Gibbs race. He also owns 23XI Racing with Michael Jordan and owns two cars backed by the Japanese automaker – one he drives Bubba Wallacethe only black driver at the top level of NASCAR.
The meme has long since been removed on all streaming platforms but the clip can still be found on YouTube. Larson’s name is placed above Driver in the meme.
Hamlin’s tweet was up around seven hours before it was deleted.
“I definitely understand how some people might find it offensive,” Hamlin said. “If it’s one, it’s a very large number.”
Hamlin wanted to keep his conversation with Larson private.
“No hard feelings from me,” Larson said. “I think after he put it there, he realized how offensive that could be.”
Larson was suspended for most of the 2020 season for using racial slur and lost his driving trip to Chip Ganassi, his sponsors, and needed to complete an allergy course in order to get him back. Larsson returned to the sport of driving for the Hendrick Motorsports team and won the 2021 Cup.
Larson is a friend of Hamlin and said, “I personally was not offended by that.”
“I think NASCAR did what it had to do, and I appreciate that Deen is going through the steps to learn from that,” he said. “Obviously it was just poor judgment on his part. I think being in the position we are in, you have to be very careful what you put out to the public. I know he is going to learn a lot from him here the next couple of weeks. I think we are all ready to get through it and get back to focusing on racing.” .
Larson said Hamlin knew that “there are millions of other people out there, and a tweet like this can be offensive.”
The NASCAR rulebook contains a section that says its members “may not make a public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or disparages another person based on their race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, or age or disability status.”
“I understand everything,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t think this fell into that category.” “Sure, I understand their decision.”
Hamlin volunteered to attend proactive diversity training when he launched the 22XI races in order to gain a deeper understanding and sensitivity to complex racial and cultural issues.
“I went with the best in the country,” he said.