Federal officials are investigating an incident at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday which according to NASCAR, a noose was found in in the garage stall of driver Bubba Wallace.
The incident follows NASCAR’s decision to ban Confederate flags from its races and venues. ““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,” NASCAR released in a statement.
Wallace, the sports only Black driver, took to social media dressing the incident by 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. 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. 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.”
NASCAR president Steve Phelps said in a teleconference that the noose was found by a member of Wallace’s team. who informed security and the Birmingham office of the FBI. When asked if the people who left the noose would be kicked out of NASCAR and banned for life, Phelps said “Unequivocally, they will be banned for life. We won’t tolerate it. They will not be here. No matter who they are.”
Wallace drove a car with a Black Lives Matter paint scheme earlier this month at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.
Phelps said he was the person who informed Wallace about the incident saying, “He has handled it with the grace that he has handled everything in the last few weeks.”
Sundays race was postponed to Monday afternoon due to rain. Monday morning before the race, speedway workers painted a graphic in front of pit row saying #IStandWithBubba in support of Wallace. Before the race began, drives and pit crew members pushed Wallace’s 43 car to the front of the line.
Gov. Kay Ivey said Monday morning the placement of a noose was a “vile act” and “disgusting display of hatred.”
“I am shocked and appalled to hear of yesterday’s vile act against Bubba Wallace in Talladega -- there is no place for this disgusting display of hatred in our state,” Ivey said. “Racism and threats of this nature will not be condoned nor tolerated, and I commit to assisting in any way possible to ensure that the person responsible for this is caught and punished. While the important conversation of racial reconciliation is ongoing all over our country, it is clear there is much work to do. Bubba Wallace is one of us; he is a native of Mobile and on behalf of all Alabamians, I apologize to Bubba Wallace as well as to his family and friends for the hurt this has caused and regret the mark this leaves on our state. I ask the NASCAR family to rally around Bubba and his team as they compete today, and I know that there are more people who are wishing him well today than ever before.”
United States Attorney Jay E. Town released a statement saying, “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.”
Talladega Mayor Timothy Ragland condemned the act by saying “I am disgusted by the cowardly act of hatred towards Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only full-time Black driver,” Ragland said in a statement. “I urge NASCAR to use every resource at its disposal to find the culprit of this vicious and racist act. I offer every resource available under my authority to assist in finding the persons(s) responsible for this blight on the City of Talladega.”