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NASCAR: NFL player takes shots at Johnson

By Dan Gelston
Associated Press
LOUDON, N.H. ó Jimmie Johnson has a pair of titles heís especially proud to have linked to his name. NASCAR champion. AP Male Athlete of the Year.
Yes, thatís right. The five-time champion driver is an athlete, too.
Johnson was swept into a brief Twitter feud this week because of his inclusion as a nominee for male athlete of the year at the ESPY Awards. Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate posted on his account, @ShowtimeTate, ěJimmy johnson up for best athlete???? Um nooo .. Driving a car does not show athleticism.î
He continued to tweak Johnson, angering NASCAR fans. Tate later posted, ě12th man get these rednecks off me.î
Johnson mostly laughed off the barbs Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and invited Tate to the track to learn more about NASCAR.
ěI think itís easy to make a comment when you donít know,î Johnson said. ěIn a lot of situations, people havenít been to a race or been close enough to our sport to understand what takes place here.î
Johnson often mentions his 2009 AP award, because heís proud, and because it ran down some stereotypes that drivers shouldnít be considered athletes. He received a handwritten letter from the grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France that told him how important it was that drivers were considered athletes.
ěItís something we have fought for a long time,î Johnson said.
Tate believed men in firesuits arenít qualified to be called athletes like men in shoulder pads.
Some of his posts:
óîIíve driven a car on unknown roads at night at 90mph no big deal. No sign of athletism.î
óîGuarantee he couldnít in million year play any SPORT.î
óîgive me 6 months of training and I bet I could compete.î
NASCAR defenders quickly typed in defense of their champion and their slams got Tateís attention.
ěApologies for my offensive comment to NASCAR fans. I actually read up on it and NO I couldnít race a car 150 mph.î
Johnson found humor in the posts, joking that, ěI was impersonating an athlete at the ESPYS.î
Drivers have always defended their spot as true athletes. Detractors claim itís not that hard to sit and turn left for a few hours. But when other athletes get a taste of NASCAR, theyíre often hooked ó and give credit that drivers are no less a real athlete than a baseball or football player.
ěThere is just an education process that has to take place across a lot of mediums,î Johnson said. ěThrough sports, Iím excited to see top athletes come in and see what we do and also go for rides in cars and be around. And when they do, they are our best advocates. They are out there telling the story.î

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