NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime, according to the FBI. The circuit’s only full-time black driver was not the target of racism. The noose found in the garage stall assigned to him at Sunday’s Talladega Superspeedway had been there since at least October 2019. The entire ordeal was merely …
NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime, according to the FBI. The circuit’s only full-time black driver was not the target of racism. The noose found in the garage stall assigned to him at Sunday’s Talladega Superspeedway had been there since at least October 2019.
The entire ordeal was merely a misunderstanding, the FBI concluded on Tuesday following its investigation that included video evidence which showed the noose was in the same garage several months ago.
“Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 [as early as October 2019], nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week,” the FBI said in a statement.
The FBI said it would not pursue federal charges after the object was deemed to be a garage door pull rope that was just fashioned like a noose. It was likely used to secure the rope to a post or pole and not a symbol of hate and a reference to historical lynchings of African-Americans. In addition to the video evidence, Wood Brothers Racing released a statement that one of its employees recalled seeing the same pull-down rope in the same garage last fall.
It’s not uncommon for garages at NASCAR tracks to have these types of ropes, though they are usually tied in a different manner than this one was.
When the noose was found it was thought to be a hate crime and act of intimidation against the 26-year-old Wallace, who two weeks ago led the charge for NASCAR to ban Confederate flags at all of its events and properties, wore an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt before an event and had driven with “Black Lives Matter” painted on the side of his car.
“For us in NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps said on a conference call with reporters in which he didn’t take any questions. “This is … disturbing to hear that it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act. It is fantastic to hear from the FBI, definitively, that there was not a hate crime.”
Phelps said NASCAR would continue to investigate why the rope was tied as a noose in the first place and would answer questions at that time. Left unsaid was how so many people in the NASCAR universe seemingly jumped to the conclusion that the noose had racial undertones, rather than suggest, or at least consider, it was a rope used for other purposes.
A crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports, which represents Wallace, discovered the noose Sunday. He brought it to crew chief Jerry Baxter, and he showed it to NASCAR Cup Series managing director Jay Fabian before the FBI was brought in. Wallace never even saw it.
“Everyone’s belief was that someone was attacking a member of our family,” Phelps said. “It turned out that that was not the case, but at the time, that’s what our industry thought. … We are continuing our portion of the investigation to try to determine why there was a rope fashioned into a noose, which obviously happened sometime last October or before.”
The race at Talladega Superspeedway was postponed Sunday due to thunderstorms and dozens of drivers pushed Wallace’s car to the front of the field before the race took place Monday in an act of solidarity.
“I’m proud to stand where I’m at. … This sport is changing,” a visibly emotional Wallace said after finishing 14th. “The deal that happened I wanted to show whoever it was, you are not going to take away my smile.”
Tensions have been high in NASCAR since the sport banned the Confederate flag at events on June 10 in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR fans flew a banner next to a Confederate flag that read “Defund NASCAR.” Truck series driver Ray Ciccarelli has threatened to quit following the season over the banning of the Confederate flag. Then came this latest incident that wasn’t an act of racism and turned out to be nothing more than a misunderstanding.