Gov. Roy Cooper may hit a grand slam this week and win the game, but currently the score stands at Ace Speedway 3 – Cooper 0.
Ace Speedway has held three races with thousands in attendance and so far has not received a citation.
Cooper ordered Ace Speedway shut down this week and gave the owners until Tuesday, June 9 to announce to the public that the racetrack was closed, a deadline which the owners reportedly missed.
Cooper described the actions of the owners of Ace Speedway to be “reckless.” But the actions of the Ace Speedway owners did not appear “reckless” when you look at more of the story. In fact, they sought guidance on how to open their business for operation under the Phase 2 guidelines, and the state offered little in the way of guidance.
According to a press release from Alamance County, the track opened under the restrictions and guidelines set by the Alamance County Public Health Department after the owners “communicated extensively” with that department.
The owners of the Ace Speedway also contacted the Alamance County attorney about how they could open their racetrack for business under the current restrictions.
Alamance County Attorney Clyde Albright contacted the governor’s office with a question about what, if any, restrictions would apply to a “peaceful assembly” at a racetrack. The right of Americans “peaceably to assemble” is in the First Amendment and the Phase 2 order states that First Amendment rights are exempted from the order. Whether or not a crowd peacefully assembling at a racetrack is a protected assembly by the First Amendment is a legitimate question and appears to be a question without a specific court ruling.
Albright didn’t get an answer back until after two races had already been held. In state government, taking weeks to respond to a question about how a small locally owned business can open under the constantly changing state regulations may seem like a prompt reply. But for the owner of a small racetrack, missing two weeks of revenue is a major blow particularly when that business had already been closed for months.
When Cooper’s attorney William McKinney did respond, he said that the First Amendment right to peaceful assembly did not apply to commercial enterprises such as a racetrack.
Cooper’s attorneys also said that the governor had the right to restrict religious services during the pandemic, a legal opinion that a federal judge strongly disagreed with.