According to Associated Press, a noose was discovered in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of Bubba Wallace Jr., a driver who successfully fought for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its venues earlier this month.
NASCAR was founded in the South more than 70 years ago and they’ve allowed the used of the confederate flag at events ever since then. It took Wallace and the current uprisings across the country over racial injustice for the stock car series to finally do away with the flag. Former NASCAR chairman Brian France tried to ban the flying of the flags at tracks five years ago, but his proposal wasn’t enforced and went largely ignored.
NASCAR has yet to outline how it will enforce its new restriction on the flag. This week’s race at Talladega, in the heart of the South, served as a test and things didn’t go smoothly. Angry fans with Confederate flags drove past the main entrance to the Alabama race track before Sunday’s race. A plane even flew above the track pulling a banner of the flag that read “Defund NASCAR”.
Due to rain, the race was postponed and a few hours later, NASCAR said the noose was found.
“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” NASCAR said in a statement. “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.”
U.S. Attorney Jay Town said his office, along with the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, was looking into the situation. “Regardless of whether federal charges can be brought, this type of action has no place in our society,” Town said.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she was “shocked and appalled” by the “vile act” against Wallace, despite Ivey having a racist history of her own, including her support for the death sentence which disproportionately impacts people of color, according to the American Civil Liberty’s Union. Ivey also supported a law in Alabama that banned the removal of Confederate monuments.
“There is no place for this disgusting display of hatred in our state,” Ivey said of the noose incident. “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.”
Fans are not allowed access to the infield or the restricted area of the Cup Series garage, and due to the coronavirus, very few staff members can access the garage where the cars are kept. This would include NASCAR employees, the crew members for each of the 40 teams, Talladega staff members and any contracted safety crews or security guard. Even drives can’t access the garage and they can only go directly from their motorhomes to the race cars to drive. Someone with extensive access or resources had to have reached the garage to place the noose.
Meanwhile, Wallace released a statement on Sunday in response to the noose 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.”
He received support from his peers in the racing world, including seven-time NASCAR champion and owner of Wallace’s famed No. 43, Richard Petty. The 82-year-old was headed to Talladega to support Wallace and he said he was “enraged by the act of someone placing a noose in the garage stall of my race team.”
“There’s absolutely no place in our sport or society for racism,” wrote the Hall of Famer, who’s known as “The King.” “This filthy act serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go to eradicate racial prejudice and it galvanizes my resolve to use the resources of Richard Petty Motorsports to create change. This sick person who perpetrated this act must be found, exposed and swiftly and immediately expelled from NASCAR.”
More race car drivers and racing journalists showed their support for Wallace. You can check out their responses below.