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DATE News (chronologically)
06/13/08
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'Lilly White' NASCAR's culture is racist
A black woman who alleges in a lawsuit that several NASCAR officials committed acts of sexual and racial discrimination says the sport's "racist culture'' must change.

Mauricia Grant, a 32-year-old former NASCAR official, made those comments Wednesday a few hours after NASCAR Chairman Brian France said none of her incidents were reported to NASCAR.

"It's inconsistent with anything of our policies and how we operate the company and the sport and so the fact that it went on, as she stated, ... for many months, I guess, but never bothered to tell anyone in management what was going on, which is what our policy says, is very disappointing," France said

Grant's $225 million wrongful termination lawsuit lists 23 specific incidents of alleged sexual harassment and 34 specific incidents of racial and gender discrimination.

Grant, an official in the Busch/Nationwide series from 2005 to until her firing in October 2007, said she reported various incidents to superiors but never consulted NASCAR's human resources department. She said she didn't hear from H.R. until two weeks after complaining to Joe Balash, the Nationwide series director, and that call was a reprimand for poor performance. Two months later, Grant said, she was fired.

Grant claims in her suit, filed Tuesday, that she was referred to as "Nappy Headed Mo'' and "Queen Sheba" by co-workers. She also claims in the lawsuit that one official repeatedly made references to the Ku Klux Klan and that two officials repeatedly used a racist epithet.

"It's an old-school way of thinking that has not ever been addressed or changed," Grant said Wednesday of the atmosphere in the NASCAR garage.

Mike Wilford, a former official who left NASCAR, is among those named in the lawsuit. Wilford told The Associated Press that Grant willingly participated in much of the behavior and had "twisted'' the versions to her benefit.

"Graphic and lewd jokes? She participated in them," he said. "She laughed. She would never say it was inappropriate.''

He's named in Grant's suit for an incident in March 2006 when Wilford allegedly showed Grant some loose diamonds and rubies and offered them to Grant if she'd be his mistress.

France said series officials will investigate Grant's claims.

Grant's lawyer, Benedict Morelli, vowed to pressure NASCAR officials.

"We're going to have a very long discovery process that's going to be become very uncomfortable for people who may not be telling exactly the truth," Morelli said. Roanoke.com

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