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UPDATED June 15,10:45 a.m. ET: TMZ reports Ray Ciccarelli has received threats after announcing he was quitting over NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag.
"My wife, my family have been attacked and abused on social media. It’s just heartbreaking," he said in an interview with TobyChristie.com. He adds that all of his comments were "misconstrued."
"In no way shape or form was I defending the Confederate flag," he said. "Everything I was saying was the fact that I understand both sides' feelings toward the flag."
"My viewpoint, all I was trying to say is how do you take [the flag] from one group and help support the group that it offends and then what do you do to the group that you took it from? Now, they get outraged."
In the interview, Ciccarelli now claims he has no issues with people kneeling during the national anthem.
"I believe in standing for the national anthem, and I believe that if you want to kneel during the anthem, you should kneel."
As far as going through with quitting NASCAR, he says the decision is "TBD."
UPDATED June 11,11:45 a.m. ET: NASCAR truck series driver Ray Ciccarelli, who TMZ points out has never won a race in the series, announced that he's quitting over NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag.
In a post on his Facebook page, Ciccarelli called the decision "political BS," and added that he doesn't believe in kneeling during the national anthem.
"Well its been a fun ride and dream come true but if this is the direction Nascar is headed we will not participate after 2020 season is over, i don't believe in kneeling during Anthem nor taken ppl right to fly what ever flag they love," he wrote. "I could care less about the Confederate Flag but there are ppl that do and it doesn't make them a racist all you are doing is f*cking one group to cater to another and i ain't spend the money we are to participate in any political BS!! So everything is for SALE!!"
Naturally, Ciccarelli was roundly criticized for his stance online.
"The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry," the statement reads. "Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties."
The announcement comes less than a week after Bubba Wallace, the first full-time black driver in NASCAR since 1971, urged the organization to ban Confederate flags. "No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race," he said. "So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here." On Monday, he indicated that he would be talking to NASCAR officials about Confederate flags, so it's likely he helped the ban come to fruition.
Wallace also recently unveiled his plan to drive with a Black Lives Matter paint scheme on his car. "I think it's going to speak volumes to what I stand for," he added. LeBron James even shouted out Wallace for the move.