United States President Donald Trump headed back to social media to go after NASCAR on Monday morning, questioning the character of the organization’s only black driver in its top tier, slamming the decision of removing Confederate flags from events, and going after its television ratings.
“Has Bubba Wallace 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?” President Trump wondered. “That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”
On June 21 at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama, one of Wallace’s crew members — not Wallace himself — found a noose hanging in the No. 43 car’s garage ahead of the Geico 500. Wallace was later informed about the noose after its discovery.
— Dan Linden (@DanLinden) June 25, 2020
NASCAR launched an investigation, which included the FBI, where it was deemed that the noose was a garage pull that had been tied since last year, well before Wallace and his team was assigned to that garage. Considering he was not the one who found the noose or blew the whistle on it, the idea of having him apologize is a peculiar one.
In the days prior to the FBI’s findings, Wallace received an outpouring of support from the NASCAR community, including fellow drivers pushing his car to the front of the field.
Bubba Wallace was emotional as fellow NASCAR drivers and crew members helped push his car.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) June 22, 2020
The 26-year-old has been vocal in speaking out against police brutality following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis PD custody, displaying a custom paint job on his car devoted to the Black Lives Matter movement. He also successfully pushed NASCAR to eliminate the flying of Confederate flags at its races and events — a decision that has received plenty of pushback in recent weeks, including a plane that flew over Talladega a day after the noose was found in Wallace’s garage reading “Defund NASCAR” with the old Civil War symbol.
Nicknamed the “Stars and Bars,” the Confederate flag represents the southern, pro-slavery opposition of the United States during the Civil War.
“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors, and our industry,” a statement from NASCAR’s decision read last month.
Contrary to President Trump’s remarks, NASCAR’s decision to ban the flag actually saw an initial boost in television ratings. Directly following the Confederate flag’s removal, NASCAR’s Cup race from Martinsville, Virginia on FS1 saw a 104% boost in the TV ratings compared to last season’s race there, per Fox Sports Executive Vice President Michael Mulvihill.
Mulvihill added that since NASCAR’s return from the pandemic on May 17, viewership on Fox has been up 8%.
“Your words and actions will always be held to a higher standard than others. You have to be prepared for that. You don’t learn these things in school. You learn them from trials and tribulations, the ups and downs this crazy world provides,” Wallace responded in a statement Monday afternoon. “You will always have people testing you… All the haters are doing is elevating your voice and platform to much greater heights! Last thing, always real with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS.. Love wins.”
President Trump was not done weighing in on the sports world on Monday as he provided his take on the current debate regarding professional sports teams with Native Americans as their mascots — such as Washington D.C.’s NFL franchise and Cleveland’s MLB franchise.
“They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!”
Such name changes have been a topic of discussion for years now as many find the nicknames and mascots insulting.
Washington’s NFL franchise has received pressure from the likes of FedEx — the shipping giant who sponsors the team’s stadium in Landover, Maryland — while Nike has removed all apparel with the team’s logo off its website.
In Cleveland, the MLB franchise’s manager, Terry Francona came out in supporting a name change just days after the organization released a statement promising to engage with “our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”.
“I know in the past, when I’ve been asked about, whether it’s our name or the Chief Wahoo, I think I would usually answer and say I know that we’re never trying to be disrespectful,” Francona said. “And I still feel that way. But I don’t think that’s a good enough answer today. I think it’s time to move forward. It’s a very difficult subject. It’s also delicate.”
Cleveland officially removed its controversial mascot, Chief Wahoo, from its caps and jerseys following the 2018 season.