Alex Bowman told his crew he was feeling unwell during Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race with a spot in the next playoff round in jeopardy.
For most spectators, it was not only understandable for Bowman to have anxiety, but also admirable he was open to sharing it.
One prominent NASCAR media member, though, decided Bowman’s mental health should be joked about. He created an #AnxietyAlex hashtag on Twitter. Each of the three times he used the nickname, the backlash from the racing community grew stronger.
Jim Utter, an editor for Motorsports.com, blocked a wave of critics to his remarks from accessing his account but has left up the tweets for several hours after posting. Utter has more than 60,000 followers on Twitter.
UPDATE: Utter issued an apology via Twitter on Monday morning.
— Jim Utter (@jim_utter) October 12, 2020
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Bowman, by the way, advanced to the Round of 8 with a strong finish to the Bank of America ROVAL 400. But even if he’d faltered down the stretch, the jokes about his mental health would have been in poor taste.
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It was reassuring to witness the almost universal negative response to the #AnxietyAlex hashtag. Fans dealing with mental health struggles chimed in to explain why it was harmful, and NASCAR media members and even drivers added their views. A sport more accepting of mental health concerns is, of course, one better for its athletes.
Bowman said after the race that his anxiety had calmed.
“With the race team that (Rick Hendrick) has given me and put me with, all the resources we have, I feel like it was pretty necessary to make the Round of 8,” Bowman told reporters of his experience in the car on Sunday. “It means a lot to me and I put a lot of pressure on myself to make that happen.”
Here are some of the ways people responded to Utter:
As someone who struggles with this as a real mental issue, this is not funny. https://t.co/glmXj3W70d
— Matt Tifft (@matt_tifft) October 11, 2020
Jim, I’ve wanted to say this for a while now but I’ve held off. You’re a clown! I hope @Motorsport let’s you go.
— Josh Bilicki (@joshbilicki) October 11, 2020
Anxiety isn’t a joking matter.
– Someone who’s been dealing with the hell that word signifies for multiple years, and severely in recent weeks.
— Jacob Seelman (@JacobSeelman77) October 11, 2020
Gonna throw my name on the list of people who believe that this tweet by NASCAR media member is incredibly irresponsible and insensitive. Good grief.https://t.co/IyA1Z5Db24
— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) October 11, 2020
Adding my name to this. Beyond unprofessional, uncool and classless. Think it would be smart to delete and apologize, and maybe get some sensitivity training. @NASCAR
— Catherine Kingston (@CathKingston) October 11, 2020
This hashtag is in really poor taste, and you’ve used it more than once. Please stop.
— The 12-ft Skeleton from Home Depot’s Wife (@AllisonHasAnElf) October 11, 2020
This is absolutely disgusting. So many people suffer from anxiety and suffer in silence because of people like you. You should be ashamed of yourself. https://t.co/gPNAWzpDjY
— Hollie (@toughtotiedown) October 11, 2020
It’s almost like there’s a reason people don’t open up about these things, like there’s a massive stigma thanks to people that instantly make fun of them for it!
— Evan John (@PywackettBarche) October 11, 2020
This. This is exactly why you see so many folks struggle in silence.
It’s a fear of ridicule
It’s a fear of mockery
It’s a fear of being told to “man up”
No one ever tell me this world is an open and accepting place for folks with anxiety.
Especially for men. https://t.co/Iz7FpI4b2E
— Rob📸 (@rob2021_jpeg) October 11, 2020