Noose Found in Bubba Wallace’s Garage
Noose Found in Bubba Wallace’s Garage
Days after the only black driver in NASCAR’s top racing series sported a “Black Lives Matter” message and celebrated the organization’s banning of the Confederate battle flag, a noose was found on Sunday in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, officials said.
“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,” the driver, Darrell Wallace Jr., who is known as Bubba, said in a statement on Sunday evening.
Wallace, who had called for the battle flag to be banned, said that he had received support from people across the racing industry in recent weeks and that the sport had made a commitment to “championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone.”
In a statement on Monday morning, NASCAR said it had opened an investigation.
“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” the organization said on Twitter.
Courtney Weber, a spokesperson for Richard Petty Motorsports, Wallace’s team, declined to provide additional details about the episode and referred to the driver’s statement.
The noose was found about two weeks after NASCAR announced it was banning the Confederate battle flag from its events and properties, spurred by the nationwide protests against racism and white supremacy after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody.
In its announcement on June 10, NASCAR said that the flag’s presence was “contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.”
Wallace had called for the flag’s ban two days earlier.
“To you, it might seem like heritage, but others see hate,” Wallace said after NASCAR announced its new policy. “We need to come together and meet in the middle and say, ‘You know what, if this bothers you, I don’t mind taking it down.’”
“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race,” Wallace told Don Lemon of CNN. “So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
That same week, Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports revealed a new black paint scheme for his No. 43 Chevrolet, with the slogan “#blacklivesmatter” over the rear wheels. On the hood, a black fist and a white fist clasp in a grip above the slogan “Compassion, Love, Understanding.”
The noose episode is another troubling moment for NASCAR, a motor sports giant that has tried to distance itself from a past in which it had cultivated ties with segregationists and harbored racists and their tropes.
George C. Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor, played a crucial role in the development of the Talladega speedway, which opened in 1969 and is along Interstate 20 between Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala.
In the nearly 51 years since the inaugural competition at Talladega, the track has become known on the racing circuit as one of the most likely places to see a Confederate flag. And even though the city of Talladega, whose limits do not technically include the speedway, elected its first black mayor last year, East Alabama can still be rife with racism and its symbols.
But in recent years, NASCAR, which has seen attendance and television ratings decline, has sought to step away from its history. In 2015, after a white supremacist killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., officials at top tracks urged people not to fly the Confederate flag at competitions, and some of the sport’s top drivers, like Dale Earnhardt Jr., spoke out about racism and their opposition to the battle flag.
Alan Blinder contributed reporting.