NASCAR and politics tend to overlap.
President Donald Trump attended the Daytona 500 in February and served as the grand marshal for the event that opened the 2020 season. And Monday, he offered an opinion on a recent incident involving NASCAR and driver Bubba Wallace, who is Black.
Two weeks after NASCAR announced a noose was found in the garage stall of Wallace's No. 43 team at Talladega Superspeedway, and a subsequent FBI investigation determined the act was not a hate crime, Trump wrote on Twitter: "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!"
The end of the tweet referred to NASCAR's June 10 ban of the Confederate flag at races, a decision prompted by Wallace that the sanctioning body said it will enforce to make all fans feel comfortable at NASCAR events.
But the ban of the Confederate flag and what happened at Talladega have not caused NASCAR's "lowest ratings EVER!" as Trump claimed. According to Fox, NASCAR viewership on the Fox networks is up 8% since returning from its coronavirus-related hiatus May 17.
Trump's claim of a hoax contradicted information from NASCAR. In the wake of the FBI's findings, NASCAR President Steve Phelps repeatedly said that the discovery of the noose was not Wallace's fault, nor was it a "hoax."
"Bubba Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with this," Phelps said after the investigation concluded. "Bubba Wallace has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity. It is offensive seeing anyone suggest otherwise."
Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany compared the "allegations and the rush to judgment" regarding the noose with the case of Jussie Smollett, an actor who claimed he was the victim of a hate crime last year.
Later, NASCAR issued a statement: "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."
Wallace also responded on Twitter with a note to "the next generation and little ones following my foot steps" that focused on overcoming "the haters" with "love."
"Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate," Wallace wrote. "Even when it's HATE from the POTUS. Love wins."
Cup Series rookie Tyler Reddick, one of the first drivers to tweet his support for the "Black Lives Matter" movement amid nationwide protests for racial justice, tweeted in response to Trump on Monday, although he later deleted the tweet.
"We don't need an apology," Reddick tweeted. "We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support."
Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who helped organize the march around Wallace before the Talladega race, tweeted a picture with Wallace's car number and the hashtag #IStandWithBubba.
• Trump also took to Twitter to criticize the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, teams considering name changes in the wake of a national reckoning over racial injustice and inequality.
Trump wrote, "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."