So, it appears, at least for now, that NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart will not be facing criminal charges for his role in an on-track accident that left 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. dead. That doesn’t seem to matter though to a whole lot of people though, who have already pronounced a verdict. Facts be damned, a number of people have already either convicted or acquitted Stewart, and want you to know about it.
Because there is video, I think, there was a tsunami of judgment on message boards and social media. Twitter is aflame with judgement really. People looked at the media, made their own decisions and then posted it online. Never mind that the vast bulk of people have never raced a winged sprint car, they were suddenly experts after one grainy video on Youtube. Very few people let the fact that they have no law enforcement training or legal training stop them from pronouncing a sentence either.
Regardless of what happens legally, “Tony Stewart is murderer,” is something that’s going to stain his entire career with a segment of NASCAR fans and casual media watchers whose only experience with NASCAR is watching that clip. I’m pretty certain this is going to follow him the rest of his life. There are people who still remember Ricky Rudd as the driver who killed a member of Bill Elliot’s pit crew in Atlanta at 1990.
For me though, as a former cops and courts reporter, I can wait, trust the system. There is probably a wealth of evidence that investigators have, but that doesn’t matter to people who watched a video one time.
There’s maybe a racial component to this as well. I found probably a hundred tweets comparing Tony Stewart to Michael Vick and Mike Brown. Vick plead guilty to a single count of felony dog fighting and sentenced to three years, of which he served almost two years in prison. Mike Brown was an unarmed African American teenager shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri
The following is a sample of posting from Twitter:
Michael Vick kills dog goes to jail tony Stewart runs opponent over he needs some jail time too
— Dashawn winters (@Dashawn_Winters) August 10, 2014
@TonyStewart Deserves to be charged with murder, and should be sitting in a jail cell, you deliberately ran over that kid
— Jordan Plumbo (@jgpsilver) August 12, 2014
Lmao Tony Stewart is a fat faced killer — QUANTREL BISHOP (@THE_ELPRESADOR) August 11, 2014
I don’t care what y’all say, Tony Stewart is a killer… I saw that last second maneuver to hit Kevin Ward. Lock heem up!
Tony Stewart definitely murdered him, that’s my opinion from the tape I saw
— Splouge McDuck (@Slick_Conseco) August 12, 2014
— Young Black Gohan (@KewlGye) August 10, 2014
And of course he has had his defenders.
So I’ve seen the Tony Stewart video. I think something more substantial than iPhone footage from 200yds out is needed to brand him a killer.
— Jeff Rivers (@jeffrivers) August 10, 2014
What’s next, will fighters be charged for knocking out their opponent? Defensive tackles when a reciever gets hurt? NO CRIME! #TonyStewart
— Brian McCoy (@Brian_McCoy_Ga) August 12, 2014
@MSNBC Race car driver Tony Stewart is getting a bum media rap. Kevin Ward intentionally ran in front of his car – period!
— Bill Burns (@b2burns) August 12, 2014