‘Apologise’: Trump unleashes on star
If there's two sports in America where Donald Trump feels like he has the balance of power it's NASCAR and the NFL.
America's football and stock car racing competitions are hugely popular in parts of the country where Trump enjoys the most support, so he had no second thoughts about wading into the most divisive conversations happening in both codes right now.
First NASCAR, which is still reeling from a recent controversy where the sport's only black driver Bubba Wallace found a noose hanging in his garage stall ahead of a race.
The garage door pull-rope fashioned like a noose - widely seen as a symbol of lynchings in the American South - sparked outrage when it was discovered during a period of nationwide protests over police brutality and racism.
The FBI investigated and found it not to have been a hate crime - the rope had been hanging in the stall months before the June 23 race at Talladege Superspeedway in Alabama - but not before dozens of Wallace's fellow drivers joined him in a walk of solidarity up the track.
Now Trump wants Wallace to apologise to his co-drivers.
"Has Bubba Wallace 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?" he tweeted on Tuesday.
"That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!"
The noose discovery was made shortly after Wallace had successfully campaigned for a ban on flying the controversial Confederate flag at NASCAR, a popular sport with conservative Americans.
Wallace responded with a statement soon after, writing: "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."
He received instant support from NBA superstar LeBron James. "Right HERE too with you!!" James replied. "As well as the next generation who follows in my footsteps! Kings and Queens."
Then came the NFL, where a decision by the Washington Redskins to launch a "thorough review" of the team's name - a term for Native Americans that is seen as a slur - is dominating discussion.
Pressure from sponsors including Nike, PepsiCo and FedEx has seen the franchise finally buckle after years of resistance from owner Dan Snyder.
"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. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!"
Baseball's Cleveland Indians have also come under fire over the years over the team name and its logo depicting a caricature of a Native American who is called Chief Wahoo.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona said Sunday he was in favour of the team changing its nickname, according to BleacherReport.com.
- with AFP
Originally published as 'Apologise': Trump unleashes on star