INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JULY 05:  Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet, looks on from the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 05, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

NASCAR, Wallace respond to President’s tweet

President Trump on Monday asked on Twitter if an apology was forthcoming from NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace for his alleged role in what he termed a “hoax” two weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway, adding that the sanctioning body’s decision to ban the confederate flag has hurt television ratings for its events.

None of these claims are true.

Wallace, the lone Black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, embraced a widespread show of support from the stock-car racing industry and his fellow drivers two weeks ago after the discovery of a noose at his team’s assigned stall at Talladega Superspeedway. The rest of the Cup Series driver roster stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with Wallace on Talladega’s pit road after a crew member for his Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 team reported the noose’s presence to NASCAR officials that weekend.

The Birmingham office of the FBI launched an investigation, later determining that no hate crime had been committed against Wallace and that the garage pull had been tied into a noose since last fall’s events at the Alabama track. That prompted conspiracy theories and other allegations of wrongdoing on social media accusing NASCAR and/or Wallace of falsifying the timeline of events.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed those charges at a press conference June 25, stating: “Bubba Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with this.”

Wallace responded later Monday with his own statement, encouraging his followers to “keep your head held high” and saying in part that “always deal 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.”

Trump’s mention of the “Flag decision” refers to NASCAR’s June 10 decision to ban the confederate flag from its events and properties. That resolution came days after Wallace advocated for its removal and days after NASCAR drivers banded together for a video message speaking out for social justice in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others in the Black community.

Trump’s claim of “lowest ratings EVER” is false, unsupported by the facts of recent TV ratings data. NBC Sports on Monday said the NASCAR Cup Series’ Sunday event averaged a total audience of 4.37 million viewers, a 46 percent increase from last year’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway race and a 32 percent rise over the Daytona event held on the same weekend last year. Michael Mulvihill, FOX Sports executive vice president in charge of research and Nielsen ratings analysis, said his network’s ratings were up 8 percent since NASCAR racing resumed in May after the coronavirus outbreak.

NASCAR released its own statement Monday afternoon, saying “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.”

A spokesperson also reiterated the stance made by NASCAR President Steve Phelps on June 25: “Bubba has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity and he stood tall for what he believes in.”