On Sunday, NASCAR ran the Brickyard 400 (this year known as the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400) at Indianapolis, as Kevin Harvick raced to another win on the season, his fifth, as Denny Hamlin, the other top driver this year in the championship battle, blew a right front tire and crashed while in the lead, seven laps from the checkered flag.
While Harvick and Hamlin have been dominant this season, the story in NASCAR in recent months has been about the sport, which has long lagged behind in speaking out on race and social issues, taking leaps forward thanks in large part to its lone Black driver, Bubba Wallace, speaking up and using his platform. Wallace got NASCAR to ban confederate flags from events, leading to some backlash from some fans, and has been a prominent voice in speaking up for racial equality in America.
Two weeks back, a garage pull tied as a noose was found in Wallace’s stall at Talladega, sparking a NASCAR and FBI investigation into a possible hate crime. It was determined the pull had been tied that way since last October, and all parties moved on — although, why someone tied it that way remains an unanswered question. The investigation looked into garage pulls at other NASCAR tracks and found that was the only one, and there was little doubt it was indeed fashioned as a noose. Still, it led to a certain segment of the fanbase hollering about it being a hoax and targeting Wallace, who wasn’t even the person that reported the noose to NASCAR, only further illustrating the racism that he faces.
On Monday, that continued, when the president came after Wallace on Twitter — again, two weeks after the incident — to demand an apology from a man that has done nothing wrong for a “hoax” that was both not a hoax and also not a thing that had been started by Wallace.
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
Like most Trump statements, it was filled with false information. For one, both NASCAR and the FBI referred to the garage pull as being, indeed, tied as a noose — as the photo released by NASCAR showed. On top of that, Wallace was never the one to report the noose, as it was a team member that informed NASCAR of it and Wallace was made aware of it then. Finally, NASCAR has seen ratings increases over the past few weeks, with Fox’s broadcasts up eight percent from before the hiatus and NBC’s broadcast on Sunday being its highest rated Indy broadcast since 2017.
Later in the day, Wallace issued a statement of his own explaining to Black children that they will always be targeted and have more expected of them than others, that they should walk with their head held high on whatever path they take, and combat hate with love, even when that hate is “from the POTUS.”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) July 6, 2020
Wallace’s statement got a stamp of approval from LeBron James, who has been vocal in supporting Wallace’s efforts to speak out in a sport that rarely does so.
Right HERE too with you!! As well as the next generation who follows in my foot steps! Kings and Queens https://t.co/6rO5cex3ed
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 6, 2020
Beats By Dre (of which LeBron is an investor) also announced on Monday that Wallace was joining “the Beats By Dr. Dre family.”
We weren’t going to announce this until later this week, but hate cannot win the day. No one should ever be asked to apologize for standing up for what’s right — we are proud to welcome @bubbawallace to the Beats by Dr. Dre family. pic.twitter.com/HeiC76MDle
— Beats by Dre (@beatsbydre) July 6, 2020
How Wallace has handled himself over the past month-plus has been truly remarkable given the intense scrutiny and pressure he’s been under. He’s spoken powerfully about racial injustice, gotten NASCAR to begin making some serious changes, and has dealt with a tremendous amount of media inquiries and fan response (both positive and negative) all while continuing to run well on the track.