Donald Trump Clearly Has a Thing For Bubba Wallace

Gabe Zaldivar

Normally the President of the United States defending the confederate flag while incorrectly calling out a sport's only Black athlete would be an extraordinary event.

In this country, in this year, it was a Monday.

Donald Trump is scrounging for something, anything to fire up his base. He believes he found that person in Bubba Wallace and a controversy that doesn't really exist. 

There’s a lot to unpack there. And normally it would be prudent to ignore someone who is obviously attempting to frame the national discourse in a way he believes is beneficial to himself and his campaign while simultaneously ignoring things like, well, facts.

But when racially-charged animus shouts the echo coming back should be steeped in honesty.

It has to be noted that Bubba Wallace did not report the noose, which was hanging from his garage. Rather, NASCAR officials did.

It should also be noted that while the F.B.I. subsequently found that no hate crime was committed, the circumstances around the discovery certainly forced the sport’s hand in investigating it in the first place.

Essentially, something that very much looked like a hate crime was investigated. The investigation took place and that was that. Or it should have been.

Two weeks later and President Trump decides to stoke dying embers to again incite mistrust in officials and the sport’s only Black full-time driver.

Mark Heim of AL.com has a thorough breakdown of the timeline that began with Wallace telling Dan Patrick on June 21 that he had not yet been to his garage in Talladega. 

Later that evening Wallace gets a call from NASCAR president Steve Phelps who explains to the driver that a hate crime had been committed.

Events played out with the sport coming together to voice their support for what they all believed was a targeted driver.

It led to a beautiful moment when drivers and pit crew walked with Wallace and his No. 43 car.

The F.B.I. would later conclude in their investigation that no wrongdoing took place, leading to relief from Wallace who posted the following.

It should be noted, however, that it’s remarkably easy to see how NASCAR jumped to protect their driver.

Heim writes, “NASCAR said out of 1,684 garage stalls at 29 tracks, only 11 had a garage door pull-down rope tied in a knot. The only one fashioned in a noose was the one discovered Sunday by a crew member in Wallace’s No. 43 garage stall.”

Just one, and it looked like this:

When Trump mentions the “Flag,” he is referring to NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag from flying at any events.

As for the ratings, the man tasked with leading this country can’t even get that correct. The Charlotte Observer’s Alex Andrejev reports ratings are not down for NASCAR events since the flag ban. In fact, there’s been a bump in the wake of that decision.

“According to FOX Sports, NASCAR viewership on the FOX networks is up eight percent since returning from its coronavirus-related hiatus on May 17,” Andrejev writes.

The sport enjoyed a second bump: “After the ban was announced the morning before NASCAR’s Cup Series race at Martinsville, television ratings on FS1 increased 16 percent compared to the previous weeknight NASCAR Cup Race rating of a .98 from Charlotte on Thursday, May 28, according to FOX Sports.”

New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz studied Trump’s recent rhetoric and believes he is now doubling down on racially charged issues as a strategy for re-election.

“His highest ambition is to see himself affirmed on his favorite television programs, and to feel himself loved in front of an audience of hooting supplicants,” Levitz writes.

In that way, the president is looking for the next foil, and it’s increasingly likely that a president who can’t give up a played-out strategy may very well target Bubba Wallace and a non-story from here until November.

It would be irresponsible, deplorable and incorrect to do so. Which is all the more reason to believe that’s exactly what he decides to do. 

Thankfully, Wallace has the last word. 

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