Trump loves to criticize Black athletes. Scratch that. He needs to criticize Black athletes.
It’s basically part of his election strategy and it’s feed for his base.
NFL players who peacefully protest are “sons of bitches,” NBA champions are not invited to the White House, and NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace, the sport’s lone black driver, is, according to Trump, the new Jussie Smollett.
This morning, Trump took to Twitter to talk about NASCAR. Not about the 130,000-plus dead Americans from the coronavirus, or racial unrest, or Russian bounties for U.S. troops or the COVID-19 hot spots around the country getting hotter.
The real issue after Fourth of July weekend? A two-week-old story about one noose found in the one garage stall of NASCAR’s lone Black driver.
Within minutes fellow driver, Tyler Reddick denounced Trump’s tweet saying, “we don’t need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.”
The tweet has since been deleted. But other NASCAR athletes, like Jimmie Johnson, have pledged their support for Wallace.
When the noose was found in Wallace’s stall at Talladega Superspeedway weeks ago, Reddick and all NASCAR personnel pushed Wallace’s car to the front of pit row in a pre-race show of solidarity.
NASCAR and the FBI launched an investigation into the incident. After inspecting 1,684 garages, the FBI found that the garage pull in Wallace’s stall was, in fact, a noose, the only one found in all those stalls. But it had been hanging in the stall for months.
Thankfully, the FBI found Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime. But there was still a noose in a NASCAR stall for months, and no one said a word, until a member of Wallace’s team identified the noose and alerted NASCAR officials.
Wallace never saw the noose.
Since the murder of George Floyd, Wallace has been unapologetically outspoken about racial injustice on social media, on the track, and on cable news where he called for the ban of the confederate flag.
Since Wallace spoke out, NASCAR has agreed to permanently ban Confederate flags from its races, a flag that’s as common at NASCAR events as the checkered one. Additionally, the league’s commissioner, Steve Phelps, has spoken highly of Wallace and his activism.
In a statement, Phelps said, “Bubba has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity and he stood tall for what he believes in. And we all need to stand with him. I know I’m going to.”
Phelps has also stated that Wallace had absolutely nothing to do with the noose. None.
But this is the same sports league who, just a few months ago, rolled out the red carpet for Trump at “The Great American Race,” the Daytona 500. Trump, in his massive armored limo, led the pack of drivers, including Wallace, around the track in a pace lap.
NASCAR has a choice. Do they stand up to the bully they rolled over for in February? Or do they really stand with their driver?
It’s a binary choice. And saying nothing speaks just as loudly as saying something.
If NASCAR is really looking “to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” then they know what they need to do.
UPDATE: Bubba Wallace has responded to President Trump on Twitter page:
Per ESPN’s Marty Smith, NASCAR sent the following statement to media Monday afternoon. While the league says it will “stand tall” with Wallace, it doesn’t address President Trump’s tweet.
“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 competitiors and everyone who makes our sports welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.”