Years after leaving NASCAR to help his partner open a cafe, openly gay driver Stephen Rhodes is looking to make a comeback. Fox Sports caught up with Rhodes, who talked about being (quietly) openly gay within NASCAR the first time around (video below).
"Everyone knew, everyone was aware; never really had any confrontations," Rhodes said to NASCAR Race Hub. "There was one, little incident that happened that I felt was geared towards who I was, more than anything. That kind of made me second-guess the sport for a second, but at the end of the day, it didn't really bother me."
Rhodes previously raced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and was, according to Fox Sports, a long-time late model stock competitor. It doesn't make any mention of Evan Darling, who was also openly gay in NASCAR, or openly gay NASCAR official Matthew Pattison.
The video segment on Rhodes asks whether NASCAR is "ready" for a gay driver. There are two answers to that question. First, of course NASCAR´s ready. Polls, Tweets and anecdotes have shown an overwhelming readiness on behalf of professional athletes, teams, fans and companies with endorsement deals to support a gay athlete in every sport, NASCAR is no different. NASCAR itself has made its organizational acceptance of gay people very clear.
Second, it really doesn't matter if NASCAR's ready or not. They'll have an openly gay active driver when one is good enough to lead a team and strong enough to come out. Whether that's Rhodes or not, everything will be just fine when it happens.
"I don't think going into a sport - having to face the one's that either like me or don't like me - is anything any different than I live any day," Rhodes said to NASCAR Race Hub. "I live in the South. I know that NASCAR has a conservative, Southern fan base, and I'm not going to try and change anyone's minds and their opinions. They're either going to like me or going to hate me. That's just life in general, really.
"I would like people to know, just because we have a different preference and lifestyle, that we're no different from anyone else," Rhodes said later. "We deserve fairness. We're just everyday people."