By Peter Gleason
President Trump had a busy Monday:
Rage-tweeting against NASCAR, Bubba Wallace, the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians and in favor of the Confederate flag!
The first tweet criticized NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag from its races and demanded that the sport’s top Black driver apologize for an episode that, by all accounts, was not his fault. The second chastised sports franchises considering ditching offensive team names.
“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 wrote on Twitter. “That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”
The tweet left the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, struggling to explain the president’s position, though she said he had informed her that he had no intention of taking a position either way on the Confederate flag ban and was merely criticizing what McEnany described as a “rush to judgment” about the situation.
Hours later Trump followed up with another tweet criticizing the Redskins and Indians, both of which announced they would review a potential name change after years of pressure from Native American groups.
“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,” he wrote, before disparaging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for promoting the results of a DNA test that showed she had a small percentage of Native American blood.
Trump claimed that “Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now,” though indigenous groups have led the charge to rename teams like the Redskins and Indians that disparaged or appropriated their culture.
Last month, shortly after unveiling Black Lives Matter signage on his car, members of Wallace’s team reported finding a noose in the team’s garage at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, prompting a swift investigation by NASCAR as well as the FBI.
The FBI determined that Wallace had not been the target of a hate crime and that the noose had been in the garage, which was assigned to Wallace on short notice, since 2019.
The incident took place amid national upheaval over the police killings of Black Americans, spurred by the death of George Floyd in police custody on Memorial Day.
NASCAR has defended its decision to push for an investigation of the episode, with the racing association’s president asserting that “given the facts presented to us, we would have pursued this with the same sense of urgency and purpose” while arguing that the noose was legitimate and that the sport was acting “to protect our driver.”
Wallace, who never saw the noose personally and who was flooded with support, tweeted after the FBI completed its investigation: “I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been.”
Wallace tweeted out a message yesterday to “the next generation and little ones following my foot steps,” saying that “your words and actions will always be held to a higher standard.“
“You will always have people testing you. Seeing if they can knock you off your pedestal,“ Wallace said. He urged fans to “always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE … Even when it‘s HATE from the POTUS.“
The initial coverage was panned by some on the right, who compared the episode to the Black actor Jussie Smollet’s fabricated assault. McEnany made the same link as she defended Trump’s tweet in a press briefing on during which she was pelted with questions about it.
The Confederate flag, she argued, was a throwaway mention “in the broader context of the fact that he rejects this notion that somehow NASCAR men and women who go to the sporting events are racist when in fact, as it turns out, what we saw with the FBI report and the alleged incident of hate crime, it was a complete indictment of the media‘s rush to judgment once again.”