On Sunday at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama a noose was discovered in the stall of Bubba Wallace. Wallace, who was the youngest driver to win at the Franklin County Speedway in Virginia (2008), is the only black driver in NASCAR’s Cup Series. He has been vocal in combating racial inequality and in line with today’s current events was adamant that confederate flags be banned from NASCAR events. In a recent interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Wallace said, “No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.” On June 9 he painted his #43 car with a “Black Lives Matter” scheme for a race at Martinsville Speedway.
Following Wallace’s remarks and car scheme on June 10th NASCAR released a statement saying:
“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
A member of Wallace’s team found the noose in the garage stall. Wallace was not the person that discovered the noose. While NASCAR launched an internal investigation, the United States Department of Justice and FBI launched their own investigation of the incident.
U.S. Attorney Jay E. Towns issued a statement announcing the investigation:
“The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Alabama, FBI and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division are reviewing the situation surrounding the noose that was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage to determine whether there are violations of federal law. Regardless of whether federal charges can be brought, this type of action has no place in our society.”
Wallace made a statement on Twitter saying, “Today’s despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism. This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”
Before the race began at the Talladega Superspeedway on Monday, all 39 of the NASCAR drivers and their crews pushed Wallace’s #43 car up to the front in support of him following the noose being found in his garage. It was an emotional day for the driver and the NASCAR community sent a pretty powerful message to the world with that display of unity. “The drivers feel very strongly that they want to show their support of Bubba,” Steve Phelps, NASCAR president, said to reporters. “He’s a member of the NASCAR community. He’s a member of the NASCAR family.”
While this appears to be a step in the right direction it’s important to note that there have been no fans present during this entire ordeal which means the culprit will be rooted out of the NASCAR community.
Following the FBI’s investigation it was determined that the noose had been in that stall since October of 2019 thus determining it was not a hate crime directed at Wallace.
While Wallace has expressed his relief of not being targeted, he is adamant that it a noose was there. “It was a relief for sure,” Wallace said. “Being able to talk to [the FBI]. Was able to tell my family. Was just dealing with facts that were given to me.”
It’s important to keep in mind that Wallace didn’t encounter the noose himself and all he had was the information/facts that he was given. The member of his crew that discovered the noose reported the information immediately to NASCAR.
“People want to call it a garage-pull, and put out old videos and photos of knots, as their evidence,” Wallace said in an interview with Don Lemon of CNN. “But from the evidence that we have, that I have, it’s a straight-up noose.
Wallace went on to say, “Whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose. So it wasn’t directed at me, but somebody tied a noose, that’s what I’m saying.”
“I have never seen a noose personally in my life,” Wallace explained. “I’ve seen a lot of garage pulls. We’ve had a lot of garages growing up and racing out of. We simply had to tie a knot at the bottom of it to pull. And nowadays you press a button and the garage goes down…But it was, in fact, a noose as a garage pull.”
So while the Wallace is relieved to not be the target of a hate crime, he still believes there is more work to be done.
“There’s a lot of work left on the table,” said Wallace. “[We’ll] walk hand-in-hand together and conquer the good fight we’re trying to fight.”