NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace on Monday fired back at President Trump for accusing him of not apologizing after a highly publicized investigation over a rope found in his garage supposedly turned out to be a hoax.
The president suggested Wallace, the auto racing company’s only Black driver, should apologize after the sport rallied around him after the noose was found in his assigned stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Federal authorities ruled last month the noose had been hanging since October and was not a hate crime. NASCAR and the FBI have exclusively referred to the rope – which was used to pull the garage door closed – as a noose.
"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?" Trump tweeted. "That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!"
Wallace responded on Twitter with a note to "the next generation and little ones following my foot steps" in which he urged people to use their platforms and not be detracted by "hate being thrown at you."
"Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate," Wallace tweeted. "Even when it's HATE from the POTUS .. Love wins."
Later, NASCAR released a statement praising Wallace’s “courage” and “leadership”
"We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership," NASCAR said. "NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans."
Wallace led the push for NASCAR to ban Confederate symbols at tracks. Two weeks later, a noose was found at the first race some fans were allowed to attend since the shutdown. On the same day, a plane pulling a banner of the Confederate flag that read "Defund NASCAR" was circling the track and protesters outside the speedway displayed their flags.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps has bristled at suggestions the noose was a hoax. Wallace was shown a photograph of the noose, never personally saw it, and was told by NASCAR officials he was the victim of a hate crime.
Two NASCAR drivers came to Wallace's defense Monday. Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, currently sidelined with the coronavirus, posted an image of Wallace's No. 43 that had been used by drivers in an earlier #IStandWithBubba campaign. Rookie Tyler Reddick tweeted but later deleted a reply to Trump that read: "We don't need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.