Sports

Announcer back at racetrack after racist rant

FAIRMONT, Minn. — An announcer who was fired by an Iowa racetrack after a racist rant was back behind the microphone in southern Minnesota last weekend, but he did not receive a standing ovation as promised because he was apparently uncomfortable with that plan, according to the promoter of Fairmont Raceway.

Lon Oelke is the full-time announcer at Fairmont Raceway, where he worked Friday – days after the Kossuth County Speedway in Algona, Iowa, cut ties with him after he went on a racist rant this month against Black fans and athletes who kneel during the national anthem as a protest against racial inequality.

The Kossuth County Speedway said in a statement that its leaders “do not condone” Oelke’s comments, adding that management did not hear them during the race, but only after they gained attention on social media.

“I think perhaps the whole thing is taken a little out of context with social media these days,” Fairmont track promoter Jon McCorkell told the Star Tribune, adding that he’ll “stick by my guy.”

In a video that was posted Thursday on Twitter, Oelke told the crowd during a July 15 race that he wanted to make “a social service announcement” before the national anthem. He condemned those who “won’t stand for our flag” or who “take a knee” during the anthem.

“I’ve got four words for you: Find a different country if you won’t do it,” he said. “Get the hell out of dodge.”

Cheers in the crowd can be heard at that point. Oelke added that he was outraged that the NFL is considering playing the Black national anthem before games this season “for those folks, I guess the darker toned skin color, I’ll just say, Blacks.”

“They want a different national anthem and the NFL is thinking about doing it,” he said. “I just say shut the TVs off and let them play in front of nobody.”

After Oelke’s firing in Iowa, McCorkell wrote on Facebook that he agreed with Oelke’s comments and said Oelke would “absolutely be announcing” races Friday night and would receive a standing ovation. McCorkell’s Facebook post has since been removed, and on Friday, there was no standing ovation. McCorkell told the Star Tribune that Oelke was uncomfortable with it.

Oelke was not available to comment to the Star Tribune on Friday. His phone number has been disconnected.

McCorkell told the newspaper that Oelke has support in the area.

“Anybody local is basically of the same belief we are,” McCorkell said. “We are one nation under God, one national anthem and you stand for it.”

The Fairmont Raceway, a half-mile dirt track, is on the grounds of the Martin County Fair in Fairmont, about 130 miles (209.21 kilometers) southwest of the Twin Cities. Robin Celander, president of the fair’s governing board, said Monday that the fair would have no comment until the board discusses the situation.

Doug Peterson, a local farmer who serves as racetrack chaplain, said he talked with Oelke about the Iowa remarks, and Oelke had expressed remorse.

“He’s genuinely sorry,” Peterson said. “I do know Lon personally and I do believe he has love in his heart, not hatred. Lonnie is not a hater.”

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