On Wednesday, NASCAR announced it had "indefinitely suspended" Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements for making "an intolerable and insensitive remark" that violated its code of conduct.
They did not, however, specify exactly what Clements said, and neither did Clements when he gave an interview to ESPN about the suspension. But he did confirm that the comment was racial in context, and said that he made it in the presence of a NASCAR employee and an MTV reporter.
Several other outlets picked up on the story, and quickly figured out that reporter was Marty Beckerman, an associate editor for MTV's Guy Code blog, an extension of MTV2's "Guy Code" television series, which takes a humorous look at "the laws of manhood." Beckerman was covering last weekend's NASCAR events at the Daytona International Speedway and spoke to several drivers.
As the news of Clements' suspension — and speculation over just what he said — began to spread, Beckerman remained silent... until he sat down with MTV News to speak about what happened in Daytona.
"I was there 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 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]."
Beckerman said that Clements didn't use the phrase in reference to any specific driver, but was instead illustrating that "if you drive roughly, you'll be treated roughly." He wrote the quote down in his notes (the conversation was not recorded) and, since he was in the presence of a NASCAR publicist, continued to speak with Clements for a few more minutes, before going to interview Long. Then, on Thursday morning, as the story continued to unfold, Clements called him to discuss the quote and let it be known that he regretted making it.
"I don't know him well enough to know if that reflects anything in his heart," Beckerman said, "but he said he doesn't harbor these feelings."
Beckerman said, since returning from Daytona, he had debated whether to publish a story around the quote. On Thursday morning, while discussions continued with Guy Code editors, he was contacted by a NASCAR rep who informed him about 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 said. "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."