As 2020 comes to a close, Bubba Wallace will one day look back on this year and remember it as one filled with pain and great triumph. On the track, Wallace had his best year on the Cup Series earning five top-10 finishes. Off the track, Wallace made headlines serving as the unofficial voice of NASCAR in the national conversation on systemic racism and racial injustice.
In that latter role the 27-year-old driver found himself a target of the President of the United States and many of his followers. Wallace and his fellow drivers responded. After months of silence on the subject, the driver of the No. 23 Michael Jordan-owned car in 2021 now appears in a new ad just days before the election and has a special message for President Trump.
President Trump asks Bubba Wallace to apologize
Just a couple of days after July 4, President Donald Trump set off a new round of fireworks. His target: Bubba Wallace. The subject: an event that happened two weeks earlier when NASCAR officials discovered a noose-like rope in Wallace’s garage.
“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!”
The President’s reference to a “flag decision” in his tweet spoke to NASCAR’s decision to permanently ban all confederate flags and memorabilia from NASCAR events at the suggestion of Wallace. The fourth-year Cup Series driver offered up the idea in a CNN interview in early June. NASCAR announced the ban just two days later.
Others defend Bubba Wallace in response to President
In his tweet, President Trump mentioned the support Bubba Wallace had received following the confederate flag removal and the rope incident. The NASCAR community—from the drivers to the top executives in the organization—rallied behind Wallace. When the President decided to use his platform to criticize Wallace, rookie Tyler Reddick forcefully responded.
“We don’t need an apology. We did what was right, and we will do just fine without your support,” Reddick wrote. The 24-year-old later deleted his tweet, but not before it was seen publicly and delivered a powerful message that no one—not even the President—will intimidate Wallace or any of the NASCAR family for standing up for what is right.
Around that same time, Bubba Wallace offered a more tempered and uplifting response to the President.
“Last thing, always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS. Love wins.”
Wallace appears in new ad directly targeting President Trump
This year Bubba Wallace’s profile has gone from relative unknown driver in NASCAR to partnering with Michael Jordan and sponsors flocking to work with him. One of those new partners is Root Insurance. The insurance company has created a new ad featuring Wallace with a powerful message, and it appears to have a particular viewer in mind.
The ad is like a year in review for Wallace and includes audio from news stories on the confederate flag, his beef with the President, as well as his driving the Black Lives Matter car. The corresponding video shows Wallace working out and then taking his car for a lap, with graphics of confederate flags and his supporters interspersed within.
It concludes with Bubba Wallace walking through a gathering of supporters and protesters, and then he is asked by one reporter, “How do you respond to the request that you apologize?” Wallace glares at the reporter briefly, then walks away.
The video cuts away to a black screen, and the words “Progress Owes No Apology” appear. The commercial ends with the company name and the tagline, “Proud to Support Unapologetic Change.”
Bubba Wallace could have never anticipated anything near what he has experienced in 2020 on and off the track. However, based on this latest ad, he’s going into 2021 more than prepared for what lies ahead and he will not be taking anything from anyone.