Trump sideswipes NASCAR, Wallace over flag and noose

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FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks before the start of the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday n Daytona Beach, Fla. NASCARs layered relationship with Trump took a sharp turn Monday, July 6, 2020, when Trump blasted the series for banning the Confederate flag and wrongly accused the sports only full-time Black driver of perpetrating a hoax when a crew member found a noose in the team garage stall.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON – NASCAR’s layered relationship with President Donald Trump took a sharp turn Monday when Trump took a sideswipe at the racing organization for banning the Confederate flag and wrongly accused the sport’s only full-time Black driver of perpetrating “a hoax” when a crew member found a noose in the team garage stall.

Trump suggested Bubba Wallace 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.

It was the only garage pull out of 1,684 stalls at 29 inspected NASCAR tracks to be fashioned as a noose.

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.

“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!”

The tweet came after Trump used a pair of Independence Day speeches to dig deeper into America’s divisions by accusing protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.” The remarks served as a direct appeal to the Republican president’s political base, including many disaffected white voters, with less than four months to go before Election Day.

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 platform 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.”