Bubba Wallace has received more attention and publicity in the last couple of months than he did the previous two years as a full-time driver on the NASCAR Cup Series. As the lone black driver on the Series, Wallace has become a prominent voice in the national conversation on racial issues in America. His words matter, and with each passing day, they seem to expand in their impact. Surprisingly, the latest organization influenced is the U.S. military.
Bubba Wallace calls for ban of confederate flags
Since early June, Bubba Wallace has been a guest on a variety of media platforms from ESPN to CNN to a podcast with Dale Earnhardt Jr. One of his earliest and most impactful moments happened on June 8 in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.
In that interview, Wallace covered a wide range of topics but toward the end of the conversation, when asked about the next steps, Wallace offered up something tangible — removal of the confederate flag from future NASCAR events.
“We should get rid of all confederate flags. There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family…Get them out of here. They have no place for them,” Wallace said bluntly.
Two days later, NASCAR announced a ban on confederate flags and related memorabilia at all events effective immediately.
President Trump criticizes Wallace and NASCAR
Almost a month later, and after an incident where a noose-like rope was discovered in Bubba Wallace’s garage, the President criticized the driver and NASCAR as a whole for its recent decisions, including the removal of the confederate flag.
“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!”
More recently, in an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” the President offered his feelings on the flag and indicated it is not a racist symbol, but one of pride in heritage.
“When people proudly had their confederate flags, they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag. It represents the South. They like the South … I say it’s freedom of many things, but it’s freedom of speech.”
U.S. military installations ban flags and Bubba Wallace approves
On July 17, Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued new guidance on permitted flags to be flown at Defense Department installations. Esper’s memo did not explicitly ban the confederate flag, but provided a set of criteria for allowable flags, and it was not among those listed.
“Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors,” Esper wrote. “The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.”
In an interview with Time Magazine, when asked if he thought his position and NASCAR’s actions had anything to do with the military’s decision, Bubba Wallace said it was a combination of factors.
“I think everybody’s trying to come together to make the world a better place. You’re not going to be able to do that with confederate flags being flown,” Wallace said.
For years Bubba Wallace relentlessly practiced and pushed himself to become the best race car driver with the hopes of one day racing at the top level. Now that he’s here, he continues his pursuit of excellence on the track while using his platform and voice to battle for a much nobler cause off of it. Based on the actions of others responding to his voice, he’s successfully leading the way to a better tomorrow. Wallace, however, understands this is a long race and the checkered flag is nowhere in sight.