Bubba Wallace on Monday issued a statement in response to President Trump, who earlier in the day said Wallace, NASCAR's only Black full-time driver, should apologize after a noose was discovered in his garage stall at a speedway in Alabama. In a statement addressed to "the next generation and little ones following my foot steps," Wallace wrote, "... always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! ... Even when it's HATE from the POTUS [president of the United States]."
Earlier Monday, Mr. Trump referred to the noose incident as a "hoax" and questioned whether Wallace had "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?" After the noose was discovered, and the race postponed due to weather, fellow drivers and crewmembers helped push Wallace's car during pre-race activities the next day as a sign of support.
"That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!" Mr. Trump tweeted, referencing NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag at races.
In response, Wallace addressed his young fans, saying: "You will always have people testing you. Seeing if they can knock you off your pedestal. I encourage you to keep your head held high and walk proudly on the path you have chosen. Never let anybody tell you can't do something!"
He then offered more advice, writing, "... always deal with the hate being thrown at your with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate."
One of Wallace's crewmembers discovered the team's garage stall door pull rope was tied into a noose prior to a race last month. Following its discovery, which came against the backdrop of nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice, the FBI and NASCAR opened investigations into the incident.
Wallace initially called the display a "despicable act of racism and hatred," while NASCAR said it is "angry and outraged" and came to his defense, saying in a statement the organization commended "his courage and leadership" for speaking out.
"NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans," the racing company said.
The FBI concluded the noose had been in the garage stall since October 2019, and thus could not have been targeted at Wallace. As a result, they determined no crime had been committed. Both the bureau and NASCAR described the rope as a noose.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was pressed numerous times during Monday's White House press briefing to explain why Mr. Trump believes Wallace should apologize, especially since it was one of his crewmembers, not the driver himself, who found the noose in the garage stall. Wallace was also not the person who reported it.
"The FBI, as I noted, concluded that this was not a hate crime, and he believes it would go a long way if Bubba came out and acknowledged that as well," McEnany said.
But immediately after the FBI revealed its findings, Wallace issued a statement saying he was "relieved" that the probe "revealed that this wasn't what we feared it was" and thanked NASCAR and the FBI for taking the episode seriously.
NASCAR president Steve Phelps, too, rejected the notion the discovery was part of a "hoax," saying Wallace and his team "had nothing to do with this."
Still, McEnany declined to elaborate on Mr. Trump's position and instead said the president was pointing out the "rush to judgment" from the press that a hate crime had been committed. She also said the president was "not making a judgment one way or the other" on NASCAR's ban on displays of the Confederate flag.
"The whole point of the tweet was to note the incident, the alleged hate crime that in fact was not a hate crime," she said. "At the very end, the ban on the flag was mentioned in the broader context of the fact that he rejects this notion that some NASCAR men and women who go to these sporting events were racist."