President Donald Trump waded into two hot sports topics Monday, the noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage and the fate of the Redskins nickname in Washington.
Weeks after NASCAR released its findings – and a photo – following the investigation into a noose found hanging in the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway garage of Black driver Bubba Wallace, Trump called the incident a “hoax”.
“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?” he said on Twitter on Monday morning.
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
NASCAR said explicitly that “the noose was real” when it released an image of the rope taken June 21, which was described as a garage-door pull.
“Based on the evidence we had, we thought our drivers — that one of our drivers had been threatened, a driver who had been extremely courageous in recent words and actions,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps said in late June. “It’s our responsibility to react and investigate, and that’s exactly what we did.”
NASCAR launched an investigation after the noose was found hanging in the garage stall that was assigned Wallace at Talladega for a race scheduled for June 21. The organization found the noose had been hanging there since the early fall.
“This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment,” NASCAR said in a statement. The FBI, which investigated it as a hate crime, announced June 23 that no charges would be filed.
The noose incident came on the heels of NASCAR announcing it would ban use of the Confederate flag at its properties and events following the urging of Wallace, the tour’s only full-time Black driver, who advocated for the sport to ditch the symbol.
Trump brought up the decision to ban the Confederate symbol in his tweet, claiming it and the noose found in Wallace’s garage are contributing to poor viewership.
“That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”
But the first NASCAR race immediately after the ban of the symbol saw a 104 percent increase in viewership over 2019, according to Fox Sports executive vice president Michael Mulvihill.
Viewership information from Sunday’s Brickyard 400 hasn’t been released yet. But the weekend’s races in Indianapolis saw an increase in viewers across the board, according to SpeedSport.
At Monday afternoon’s White House briefing, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that the “one word at the bottom of the tweet” – the mention of the Confederate flag – was taken out of context.
Wallace, who did not see the noose and did not report it to NASCAR, responded Monday with a tweet of his own.
“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,” he wrote.
“Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS ...”
After McEnany defended Trump’s tweet at the White House podium, Trump went back onto the platform to wade into the debate over whether pro franchises using Native American names should rebrand.
His take: the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians got their names out of “STRENGTH, not weakness.”
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020
The two franchises “look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct,” the president wrote, before he lobbed a familiar insult at Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts.
“Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!”
Washington is undergoing a review of its nickname, a significant step toward ditching what advocates call a “dictionary-defined racial slur.”
Sponsors such as FedEx, which owns naming rights for Washington’s stadium, are putting pressure on team owner Dan Snyder to move on from the nickname. The review has the support of the league.
“In the last few weeks, we have had ongoing discussions with Dan, and we are supportive of this important step,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday.
As for the Indians, Cleveland manager Terry Francona threw his support behind a name change.
(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)