*MTV on Friday confirmed that Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements used the n-word in a conversation with one of its editors, which led to Clements receiving an indefinite suspension from NASCAR for violating the sport’s code of conduct.
The editor of MTV’s “Guy Code” blog, Marty Beckerman, said he attended last Saturday’s race at Daytona International Speedway to do “a fish-out-of-water story about going to NASCAR and having a wild, crazy weekend.”
“And, we were doing interviews with many of the drivers, and I was on the way to another interview — we were looking for [driver] Johanna Long’s trailer — and the NASCAR publicist called Mr. Clements over and asked him for help finding her,” Beckerman said.
“He [Clements] walked us toward where she was, and on the way over, I explained to him that ‘Guy Code’ is rules for guys, how you treat your friends, how you treat your ladies, things like that. I was there to do a humor piece, so I asked him what would be ‘Guy Code’ for race car drivers, and he blurted out [a phrase that used the n-word].”
Clements has declined to disclose what he said and his remark had not previously been published or broadcast. In a one-on-one interview with ESPN.com, Clements still would not verbalize the specific comments he made, but when pressed for clarity about whether or not it was racial, he paused. Asked again, “Was it racial or not? Maybe not in context, but in term?” Clements replied: “Correct.”
“When you say ‘racial’ remark, it wasn’t used to describe anybody or anything,” Clements told ESPN. “So that’s all I’m going to say to that. And it really wasn’t. I was describing racing, and the word I used was incorrect and I shouldn’t have said it. It shouldn’t be used at all.
In the MTV News story, Beckerman said he debated whether to publish the story around the quote. He said during discussions with editors he was contacted by a NASCAR representative who told him of Clements’ suspension.
“We had not even intended to necessarily publish it, because our site is a humor site for men, we aren’t the New York Times, we aren’t investigative journalism. It didn’t fit with our blog,” Beckerman told MTV. “The fact is that NASCAR made this a national story, and then Clements explained a bit of what he said to ESPN. … I never wanted to be part of the story.”
Clements was indefinitely suspended Wednesday. NASCAR officials would not verify or discuss what he said, only that it was an “intolerable and insensitive remark” and violated the sanctioning body’s Code of Conduct for actions detrimental to stock car racing. Officials did verify that the remarks came during the course of a Feb. 23 interview. That was the same day as the Nationwide opener at Daytona.
Clements, who finished 33rd after parking early with an oil line problem, released a statement shortly after the suspension. “I apologize and regret what I said to the NASCAR writer and to NASCAR, my sponsors, my fans, and my team. NASCAR has a Code of Conduct that everyone must follow and I unintentionally violated that code.
“I will not get into specifics of what I said, but my comment to the writer was in no way meant to be disrespectful or insensitive to anyone or to be detrimental to NASCAR or the NASCAR Nationwide Series. I will do what I need to do in order to atone for my error in judgment.”
NASCAR’s only official comment came in a statement from Steve O’Donnell, vice president of racing operations. “During the course of an interview, Jeremy Clements made an intolerable and insensitive remark,” O’Donnell said in a release. “NASCAR has a Code of Conduct that’s explicitly spelled out in the 2013 NASCAR Rule Book. We fully expect our entire industry to adhere to that Code.”
Beckerman said he wrote the quote and that the conversation was not recorded. He said Clements called him on Thursday to discuss the quote and “let it be known that he regretted it. I don’t know him well enough to know if that reflects anything in his heart,” Beckerman said in the MTV story, “but he said he doesn’t harbor these feelings.”