In an era where every statement a person has ever made can come back to haunt him or her, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear of another athlete losing sponsorship over an errant comment somewhere in the past.
But to hear about a sponsor dropping someone over what his or her parents said? That sounds ridiculous, right? Well, it happened.
Lilly Diabetes has cancelled its sponsorship of NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie driver Conor Daly for a race this past weekend over a comment his father Derek made in the early 80s. Conor is 26 years old, but he lost a sponsorship over something his dad had to say over 30 years ago. Let that sink in.
> “Unfortunately, the comments that surfaced this week by Derek Daly distract from this focus, so we have made the decision that Lilly Diabetes will no longer run the No. 6 at Road America this weekend,” Lilly said.
> In the early 80’s, after I had recently relocated to the United States, I was interviewed by radio reporter Larry Henry and I was asked about my situation with my new American team. I responded by explaining that I was a foreign driver now in America, driving for an American team, with an American crew, and with an American sponsor – and that if things did not go well, the only ‘n’ in the wood pile” would be me. At the time, I meant that I, as the new foreigner on the team, would shoulder the blame and I would be the scapegoat. This was not in any way shape or form meant to be a racial slur. This phrase was commonly used in Ireland, Britain, and Australia.
> When I used that phrase in the early 80’s, I had no idea that in this country that phrase had a horribly different meaning and connotation, as it was commonplace in Ireland.
For his part, Conor reacted to the news with an impressive amount of grace.
But no matter how Conor Daly reacted to the news, it shouldn’t have happened. It’s bad enough that there’s so little forgiveness for one’s own past statements, but for a young driver like Conor to have to deal with the fallout of his dad’s comments is uncalled for.
In a perfect world, Lilly Diabetes would realize the error of their ways and apologize. And in that same utopia, something like this would never happen again. But I fear that Lilly has opened a Pandora’s box in which generation after generation of insensitive and inflammatory comments will make it more difficult for people to do their job well. And that’s a shame.
(Image of Conor Daly racing in the 2017 Indy 500 courtesy of [NaBUru38](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:NaBUru38 "User:NaBUru38")/Wikimedia Commons)