Jordan’s NASCAR team and its sponsors have a primary goal: Diversity

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bubba Wallace is shown exercising alone in a dimly lit gym. The camera cuts to a small, static screen in the corner as a news reporter’s voice is heard saying: “Bubba Wallace asks for a ban on Confederate flags at NASCAR events.”

Wallace grinds through his workout, heaving and sweating as he crunches his body weight in what seems like a symbolic representation of his burden as the only Black driver competing full-time in NASCAR’s top series.

Voices continue broadcasting headlines involving Wallace from this year, including references to a tweet issued by President Donald Trump, a Black Lives Matter car paint scheme and a noose incident some have labeled a “hoax.”

More:KEN WILLIS: Bubba Wallace’s move to faster NASCAR equipment is familiar yet very different

Wallace is driving. It’s raining.

The commercial lasts for a pulsating one minute and 17 seconds, and reaches a climax when Wallace walks through a gaggle of reporters — a young, Black fan looking on admiringly — and stops next to one who asks, “How do you respond to requests that you apologize?” Wallace’s eyes flick to the camera, then back to the reporter, and he walks on. His response is silence.

Then the words, “Progress owes no apology” flash on screen before the audience is hit with an inevitable promotion for … auto insurance?

What the?

“Proud to support unapologetic change. Proud to support Bubba Wallace,” the tagline for the Root Insurance ad reads.

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace's new Toyota team, 23XI Racing, is co-owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin.

The commercial dropped in October along with the announcement that the car insurance disruptor was partnering with Wallace to “champion progress that is long overdue.” Wallace called the ad toned down.

“It just shows where we need to go as a generation, where we need to go as a nation, to not make (racism) to where it’s such an, ‘Ooh, I don’t want to touch that,’ ” Wallace said. “These conversations need to be had. That’s the problem. People don’t want to talk about it because it doesn’t affect them.”

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