On Monday, the US president criticised Nascar’s decision to ban the Confederate flag at their events, after the competition’s only black driver, Bubba Wallace, called for such a move.
Wallace has been a prominent supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and last month thought he had been the victim of a hate crime, after a noose was found in his driver’s stall before a race.
President Donald Trump has claimed that the decision to fly the Confederate flag is covered by freedom of speech, a day after he criticised it being banned at Nascar events.
Speaking to NexStarDC’s Jessi Turnure on Tuesday the president said that he views flying the Confederate flag as “freedom of speech. You do what you do. It’s freedom of speech”.
He added: “Nascar can do whatever they want and they’ve chosen to go a certain way and other people chose to go a different route. But it’s freedom of speech.”
After it was discovered that the noose had been in the stall since 2019, the president asked the driver to apologise, despite Wallace not being aware of this until it was announced during the investigation.
“Has BubbaWallace apologised 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?” the president tweeted.
He added “That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER” – in reference to the organisation banning the Confederate symbol.
Speaking about his tweet on Tuesday, Mr Trump said: “I was just talking about the fact that Nascar chose to go a certain way and that’s going to be up to them.
“That is up to them. I’m very friendly with Nascar. I know the people there. I know drivers. I know a lot of them.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany attempted to explain the president’s post on Monday, and told reporters: “The whole point of the tweet was to note the incident, the alleged hate crime that, in fact, was not a hate crime.
“At the very end, the ban on the flag was mentioned 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.”
Over the last month there has been a growing conversation in the US about the place of symbols of the Confederacy, following Black Lives Matter protests.
Monuments to Confederate leaders have been taken down in states across the US, and the Marine Corps, who previously announced their intent to ban all images of the Confederate flag from their bases, officially ordered the removal of them last month.
“The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps,” the service said in a statement.
On Tuesday, in reaction to Mr Trump’s comments, Nascar released a statement to USA Today where it said: “We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the Nascar family and we commend his courage and leadership.
“Nascar continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.”