After Bubba Wallace — the only Black driver in NASCAR’s top circuit — led the charge to ban the Confederate flag from events, a noose was hung in his stall ahead of a race. But, he says he will ‘back down’ or give up.
UPDATE: (6/25/20, 3:45 pm ET) On June 25, NASCAR released the image to the media of garage pull rope formed as a noose from the Bubba Wallace garage Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Below is the tweet with the image provided by NASCAR.
A statement released on NASCAR’s official site also reads “Our ultimate conclusion for this investigation is to ensure that this never happens again, that no one walks by a noose without recognizing the potential damage it can do,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said. “Going forward, our efforts are best spent on making sure every competitor feels safe and every guest feels welcome. I would also like to reinforce that what we did see at Talladega in pre-race on Monday, our drivers, crews and officials proudly demonstrated that we are united in the belief that there is no place for racism in our sport.”
NASCAR releases photo to the media of the garage pull rope formed as a noose from the Bubba Wallace garage Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.
This image was provide by NASCAR. pic.twitter.com/Z4ZyBzpREF
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) June 25, 2020
UPDATE: (6/23/20, 7:01 pm ET) The FBI investigated the noose and determined that Bubba was not the victim of a hate crime because the rope had been on the garage door at Talladega Superspeedway since as early as Oct., Nascar said. “The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall,” NASCAR said in a statement. “This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment.”
“We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba,” the statement continued. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”
U.S. Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said that “although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week,” ESPN reported.
Due to the evidence not supporting federal charges, no charges will be filed, the FBI concluded.
“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,” said Bubba Wallace, 26, in a June 21 statement. The NASCAR driver spoke out after a noose was discovered his team’s garage at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. This incident comes after NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at events, a change that happened after Bubba spoke out against it being displayed at races.
“Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry, including other drivers and team members in the garage,” Bubba said in his statement. “Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone. Nothing is more important, and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate. As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you.’ 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.”
Bubba never saw the noose, according to ESPN. It was spotted by a member of his racing team and brought immediately to NASCAR’s attention. NASCAR confirmed that a noose was found in Bubba’s stall ahead of the Cup Series’ GEICO 500 (which was rained out and postponed until Monday.) “We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” said NASCAR in a statement. “We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.”
Following the incident, members of the sports world showed support for Buba. “I can’t begin to fathom the pain this action has caused. I stand with you,” tweeted Jimmie Johnson. “Sickening! @BubbaWallace my brother! Know you don’t stand alone! I’m right here with you as well as every other athlete. I just want to continue to say how proud I am of you for continuing to take a stand for change here in America and sports! @NASCAR I salute you as well!” tweeted LeBron James. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also weighed in. “Hope Bubba wins it tomorrow.”
Hope Bubba wins it tomorrow.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) June 22, 2020
Bubba, the sole full-time Black driver in NASCAR’s top circuit, has recently used his platform to support the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Earlier in the month, he drove a car emblazoned with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. “My next step would be to get rid of all Confederate flags,” he said at the time, per the Washington Post. “There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family that feels some type of way about something they have seen, an object they have seen flying. 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.” Shortly after Bubba’s criticism, NASCAR banned the display of the flag at its events and properties.
Sunday’s race was the first time since the coronavirus pandemic that NASCAR opened its gates to fans, allowing up to 5,000 people into the stands. Ahead of the race, vehicles waving and flying the flag (which the Anti-Defamation League has dubbed as a general hate symbol) were seen running past the speedway. A plane flew over the track while towing a banner of the Confederate flag that read “Defund NASCAR.”