NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace says a tweet aimed at him by Donald Trump contained “hate”, in response to an accusation by the President of a noose “hoax” at Talladega two weeks ago.
Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Wallace – the only African American driver competing at NASCAR’s top level – has been one of the most vocal and demonstrative sportsmen, regularly speaking out and challenging those around him to improve.
Wallace recently called on NASCAR to ban the Confederate Flag at its tracks, which the sanctioning body took just days to do, despite the risk of the decision being unpopular with its fanbase.
Wallace has also run a Black Lives Matter livery on his Cup Series car at Martinsville, and the NASCAR community has supported him strongly as has the Richard Petty Motorsports team.
That was obvious when a noose was found in Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega last month, which NASCAR immediately labelled a “heinous crime”, and the community came together before that race to show its solidarity against racism and behind Wallace.
An FBI investigation later concluded that the noose was in the garage as early as 2019 and thus it was not a hate crime targeted at Wallace.
But despite that incident having occurred two weeks ago, Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday asking if Wallace had apologised to drivers and officials, calling the incident a “hoax”. He said that and the decision to ban the Confederate Flag have led to NASCAR’s “lowest ratings ever”.
Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020
However, per Fox Sports’ Michael Mulvihill – executive Vice President/head of strategy – NASCAR viewership has risen by over 8% on its networks since returning on May 17, after an enforced coronavirus lay off. Sunday’s Brickyard 400 on NBC reportedly pulled in over 4 million viewers.
NASCAR has repeatedly made it clear that Wallace was not the one to have reported the noose, and previously clarified the driver himself had found out about it from NASCAR president Steve Phelps.
Following Trump’s tweet, Wallace released a statement saying “always deal with the hate being thrown at you with love”. He added: “Even when it’s hate from the POTUS [President of the United States].”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) July 6, 2020
A number of fellow drivers and teams came out in support of Wallace including seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. He led a trend of tweeting a picture of the number 43 used by Wallace and the Richard Petty Motorsports team.
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) July 6, 2020
NASCAR itself issued a short statement after Wallace’s, which read: “We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership.
“NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.”
The series also retweeted Wallace’s statement.
Trump visited the Daytona 500 earlier this year and has been well-supported by key figures in NASCAR.
Last weekend, a political action committee looking to garner support for the President’s re-election in November paid for ‘Trump 2020’ branding to appear on the Go Fas Racing entry of Corey LaJoie in the Cup Series. LaJoie has previously backed Wallace in his battle for equality.
In the Xfinity Series, also last weekend, Kyle Weatherman ran a #Standfortheflag livery in reference to people taking a knee during the national anthem as a protest against police brutality.