An auto racing announcer from Fairmont, Minn., who launched a racist rant in June at a race in Iowa will sit out the rest of the season, and a Minnesota track promoter has apologized for supporting him.
Jon McCorkell, who promotes auto racing at Fairmont Raceway, said he made "a bad mistake" in defending his longtime track announcer, Lon Oelke, who was fired from an Iowa racetrack after complaining about "those folks, I guess the darker-toned skin color," who refuse to stand for the national anthem.
"I realize that I cannot take back or fix what I said, but I would like to say I was wrong and I am sorry for the comments that I made last week," McCorkell said in a statement released by the raceway Thursday.
The raceway said Oelke would be taking a leave of absence for the rest of the racing season. The Fairmont track also canceled its normally scheduled Friday night race card, saying recent rains had made the track unsuited for racing.
"I have talked to many people on these issues over the last few days," McCorkell said. "I learned a lot about what some of the underlying deeper issues are for a lot of people.
"I guess I have learned that you cannot always just look at things from your own perspective. Sometimes, you have to keep an open mind and to try to look at what things are like from someone else's perspective."
In a livestreamed race broadcast this month from the Kossuth County Speedway in Algona, Iowa, Oelke said he wanted to make "a public service announcement" and raged about people who take a knee or won't stand for the national anthem.
"I've got four words for you: Find a different country if you won't do it," he said. "Get the hell out of Dodge."
Oelke continued by criticizing the NFL's plans to play "Lift Every Voice and Sing," often called the Black national anthem, before games this season.
His remarks, he said, were "for those folks, I guess the darker-toned skin color, I'll just say, Blacks. They want a different national anthem and the NFL is thinking about doing it. I just say shut the TVs off and let them play in front of nobody."
McCorkell had strongly supported Oelke, telling the Star Tribune he would "stick by my guy" and promising that Oelke would get a standing ovation at the next race card in Fairmont.
At that race July 23, however, there was no standing ovation and no special recognition of Oelke, who announced the races that night. McCorkell said Oelke had been uncomfortable with the plan, but added that local residents were strongly in favor of his stance on "one nation under God, one national anthem and you stand for it."
Fairmont is a city of 10,000 residents 130 miles southwest of the Twin Cities.
John Reinan • 612-673-7402