NESN Diary: Kyle Larson Learns An Important Lesson (And Other Random Thoughts)


April 14, 2020

Kyle Larson gave the sports world a quick lesson in sportsmanship Monday.

As you might have heard, both NASCAR and iRacing have suspended Larson indefinitely after the 27-year-old uttered a racial slur during an event streaming online Sunday evening. Larson apologized for the comment Monday after his suspensions, but the damage had been done.

So, what has this taught us?

Unfortunately, this incident is a somber reminder that racism remains alive in sports. Comments like Larson’s sadly still are more common than many realize, so it’s important to root them out whenever possible — including in this situation. Allowing such comments to go unacknowledged or fly under the radar is a simple way of condoning the action and allowing it to continue, no matter the intention behind the initial comment.

Most importantly, however, an incident like this only furthers the message that racism simply is unacceptable — especially in sports. NASCAR or iRacing did their part in furthering that message by condemning Larson’s comment so quickly, a sign both leagues consider the issue of racial insensitivity a serious one, and rightfully so. 

After all, it’s 2020. We should know better by now, though apparently some people haven’t quite got the message.

Whether Larson actually learned his lesson from this incident remains to be seen. His apology certainly appeared sincere, but as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

On a lighter note, here are a few interesting tidbits that emerged from Monday’s news cycle:

— Should sports be considered “essential businesses” during the COVID-19 outbreak? According to the state of Florida, they certainly are.

In a memo released April 9, Gov. Ron DeSantis deemed “employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience” an essential business. Therefore athletes, entertainers and just about anyone that makes the production tick are considered essential employees.

Believe it or not, that means the WWE is considered an essential business. (Seriously. I’m not kidding.)

Coming from a state that allowed spring breakers to party on its beaches and in its bars until April, however, this isn’t wildly surprising news.

— Meanwhile, Christian McCaffery made a little NFL history on Monday.

The 23-year-old just became the highest-paid running back in league history after inking a four-year, $64 million contract with the Carolina Panthers, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

McCaffrey is the only player in NFL history to total 2,500 rushing yards and 2,500 receiving yards in his first three seasons, so news of this epic contract likely isn’t super surprising for most NFL fans. But boy, what a paycheck.

Sounds like someone will a popular pick for Fantasy Football players whenever the season gets underway.

— Speaking of football, the XFL’s brief run has come to an abrupt end.

Just three days after suspending the season over coronavirus concerns, the league has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to ESPN. The XFL referenced the COVID-19 outbreak as just one reason the league shut down.

“Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis,” the league said in the filing. “… This is a heartbreaking time for many, including our passionate fans, players and staff, and we are thankful to them, our television partners, and the many Americans who rallied to the XFL for the love of football.”

Rest in peace, XFL.

— The NHL, on the other hand, isn’t going away quietly.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is exploring “every option” and has not “ruled anything out” regarding the future of the 2019-20 season. It’s been one month since the league paused the current season due to the coronavirus outbreak, and players remain in self-quarantine until at least April 15.

?As much as you may try to stay in shape with a home gym, our guys haven?t been on the ice for a month and they?re going to need two-to-three weeks to get back into playing shape,? Bettman told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday. ?So as much as we may worry about keeping everybody, not just our players or the NHL family, but everybody safe from the coronavirus, we also want to make sure that our players don?t jeopardize their health by coming back too soon and not being in game shape.?

Hey, I’ll take any hope I can hang on to. Wouldn’t you?

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Remember Nathan Horton? That guy was good at hockey.

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