NASCAR’s layered relationship with Donald Trump took a brutal turn on Monday when the President criticized the series for banning the Confederate flag and wrongly accused the only full-time black driver in the sport of committing “a hoax When a crew member found a noose in the garage stall team.
Trump has suggested that Bubba Wallace should apologize after the sport has gathered around him after the noose was found in his assigned stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Federal authorities ruled last month that the noose had been hanging since October and was not a hate crime. NASCAR and the FBI exclusively called the rope – which was used to close the garage door – a noose.
It was the only garage to come out of 1,684 stands on 29 inspected NASCAR tracks to shape like a noose.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps bristled with the idea that the noose was a hoax. Wallace was shown a photograph of the noose, I have never seen him personally, and NASCAR officials told him that he had been the victim of a hate crime.
“Did BubbaWallace apologize to all these great NASCAR drivers and officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, and were ready to sacrifice everything for him, only to discover that everything was not than another HOAX? Trump tweeted. “The That & Flag decision caused the lowest scores of all time!” “
The tweet came after Trump used a pair of Independence Day speeches to deepen American divisions by accusing protesters who urged racial justice to engage in a “merciless campaign to erase our history” . The remarks served as a direct call to the Republican president’s political base, including many disgruntled white voters, with less than four months before polling day.
Wallace responded on Twitter with a note to “the next generation and the little ones who follow in my footsteps” in which he urged people to use their platform and not to be bothered by “hatred that is launched at you.”
“Love should come naturally because people are supposed to hate it,” Wallace tweeted. “Even when it is HATE of POTUS … Love wins. “
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president’s decision to get into the Wallace case, saying in a Fox News interview that “the president just stresses that we have to let the facts go before we move on at judgment. “
She also linked the incident to haste to trial, comparing it to actor Jussie Smollett’s claims that he had been the victim of a hate crime.
In a White House briefing later Monday, McEnany continued to criticize the press, calling Trump’s tweet “a complete indictment of the media rush for judgment.”
WATCH | NASCAR drivers support Bubba Wallace:
McEnany declined to explain why the president thought Wallace should apologize since he did not report the noose. McEnany declined to say whether or not the president supported NASCAR’s ban on the Confederate flag.
NASCAR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Andrew Murstein, co-owner of the Richard Petty Motorsports team that uses Wallace’s car, called Trump’s tweet “late, uninformed and factually incorrect.” He also said that this was not justified and cited the NASCAR photo of the noose.
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” said Murstein in a statement. “Bubba responded in an honest, professional and balanced manner. The NASCAR community and those who know about it all support it. “
“We don’t need excuses”
Wallace, the only black driver in the top series, led the campaign to have NASCAR ban Confederate symbols on the tracks. Two weeks later, the vice was found during the first race which some fans were allowed to attend since the stop. On the same day, an airplane drawing a banner of the Confederate flag on which “Defund NASCAR” was written circled the runway and demonstrators outside the expressway displayed their flags.
Two NASCAR drivers came on Monday to defend Wallace on social media. Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, currently excluded from the coronavirus, has released an image of Wallace’s No. 43 that had been used by drivers in a previous .IStandWithBubba campaign.
Tyler Reddick, a rookie driving for Richard Childress, tweeted but then deleted a response to Trump who said, “We don’t need an apology. We did what was right and we will be fine without your support. “
NASCAR’s complex relationship with Trump dates back to the start of his first campaign when former President Brian France brought a contingent of drivers to a rally in Georgia.
France then sent a note to NASCAR employees stating that his political beliefs were his and that he was not speaking on behalf of the organization. France was replaced in the presidency after her arrest for drunk driving in 2018 and no longer has a role in her family business.
Lobby for racial equality
Other members of the France family welcomed Trump to Daytona for the season’s opening race in February. Many drivers and owners mingled with Trump in a gathering area and posted selfies with the president.
Wallace, born in Alabama, has played an active role in promoting racial equality. He wore a shirt saying “I Can’t Breathe” and ran with a Black Lives Matter paint scheme in Virginia.
The series first tried to ban the Confederate flag five years ago, but did nothing to enforce order.
Ramsey Poston, former NASCAR consultant and now head of crisis management company Tuckahoe Strategies, said that Trump’s tweet was hurting NASCAR’s pressure for inclusion and diversity. Wallace is one of the few non-white pilots. Daniel Suarez is Mexican and Aric Almirola is of Cuban origin. Kyle Larson, who is half Asian, was fired in April for using a racial slur and is not currently participating in NASCAR.
“The cultural war raging within NASCAR for equality has just broken out and sport’s efforts to separate from its past have become more difficult,” said Poston. “The president’s comments are essentially a rallying call to those who support the Confederate flag to challenge the recent ban on the sports flag and create chaos. “
While Trump has said that NASCAR scores are down, they are actually up. Michael Mulvihill, executive vice president of Fox Sports, tweeted just after Trump that Fox’s audience was up 8% since the sport returned from the pandemic on May 17. NBC took over broadcasting rights last weekend and said its odds for the Xfinity Series race on Saturday had increased.