I never imagined I would be writing this much about NASCAR, but here we are. Just a few weeks ago, NASCAR banned Confederate flags from all of their races. Rednecks were super-salty about it, but NASCAR stood their ground. It was part of a request from NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace. To their credit, NASCAR was happy to give Wallace a platform to speak about Black Lives Matter, social justice and the changes desperately needed not just within NASCAR, but around the country and the world.
So it seemed inevitable that Wallace would then become the target of racism and hate. Several days ago, Wallace’s team returned to his garage at Talladega and they found a noose in the garage. NASCAR called in the FBI to investigate and there was a lot of reaction, both good and bad. A lot of people questioned the incident, like those same people who were salty about the Confederate flags. But NASCAR and all of the NASCAR drivers & garage teams supported Bubba and they made a big show of it, which was nice. Richard Petty and other important NASCAR people publicly embraced Bubba at that photo-op.
Well, the FBI investigated the noose incident. And they found that it was just a misunderstanding involving a garage door pull or something:
The noose found by a member of Bubba Wallace’s team in his garage at the Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama, over the weekend has been in that stall since October of last year, the FBI’s investigation into the incident found. The FBI determined Tuesday that no hate crime had been committed against Wallace, who is the first Black full-time driver to race in the Cup Series in nearly 50 years.
“After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed,” said the FBI and U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town in a joint statement Tuesday, saying that 15 special agents conducted interviews on Monday.
The noose found in Wallace’s garage stall Sunday “was in that garage as early as October 2019,” the FBI said, citing evidence that included “authentic video confirmed by NASCAR.”
“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,” the joint statement said. No federal charges will be pursued.
“The FBI has completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime,” NASCAR said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
“This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment,” the statement continued. “We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba.”
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing,” the statement concluded.
So it was a noose, but it was put there in 2019 and it wasn’t part of some hate crime against Wallace. NASCAR is now being criticized for jumping the gun and issuing a statement condemning the act, which they first saw as a hate crime (which it would have been if someone had put it there last week). I mean… I’m glad that NASCAR took this seriously, and I’m glad it wasn’t a hate crime directed at Bubba Wallace. Can’t that be enough?
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 23, 2020
Photos courtesy of Getty.