The incident at Talladega Motor Speedway comes after Bubba Wallace, the circuit’s only full-time Black driver, prompted Nascar to change its policy
By Andrew Beaten , Wall Street Journal
Nascar said late Sunday it is investigating the discovery of a noose in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace, the only full-time Black driver at Nascar’s highest level whose calls for change in the sport led to a ban of Confederate flags at races.
The incident—and the use of such a stark symbol of hatred aimed at Wallace—comes as the sport reckons with its own racial tensions and identity in the aftermath of a national uproar over systemic racism since George Floyd’s killing.
The noose was found in Wallace’s stall at the Nascar race at Talladega Motor Speedway in Lincoln, Ala., which was postponed until Monday due to inclement weather. The delay came as people outside the track paraded Confederate flags in defiance of the sport’s rule change.
“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,” Wallace said in a statement posted to Twitter.
“I’m shocked and saddened by the report,” said Andrew Murstein, principal owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, Wallace’s team. He said his first thought was about the baseball star Henry Aaron, adding: “Henry went through something very similar when he was breaking Babe Ruth’s [lifetime home run] record. You would like to think that the country has changed for the better in the last 40 plus years. Unfortunately in many ways, it hasn’t.”
Wallace’s powerful message in this sport, which is popular in the South, had led the racing circuit to act just two weeks ago. As protests rocked the country following the killing of George Floyd, he spoke out against Confederate flags, a regular sight at Nascar races, saying their presence was contrary to an inclusive environment. Nascar reacted by banning Confederate flags and Wallace later rode in a car with the words “Black Lives Matter.”
While the decision was praised as a long overdue measure, it also drew criticism from the fans who wanted to bring Confederate flags to races in the first place. And the race at Talladega, where 5,000 fans were set to be allowed in, shaped up as the first major test of how the new paradigm would go.
Over the weekend, it became clear that there would be serious resistance.
Reports emerged that even though Confederate flags were banned inside the track, fans made a concerted effort to make them visible elsewhere. Pickup trucks paraded with them outside the venue while the flag was available for sale across the street.
Nascar, in its statement on the noose found in Wallace’s locker, said it is “angry and outraged” and that it launched an immediate investigation to find who perpetrated the act. “This act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all,” Nascar said.
NASCAR statement: A noose was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall today at Talladega.
NASCAR is investigating. pic.twitter.com/dGYFYryVES
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) June 22, 2020
Wallace, in his statement, said he has been overwhelmed by the support inside the industry over the last several weeks. He added he won’t be deterred by this act.
“As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you,’” Wallace wrote. “This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down.”
—Jason Gay contributed to this article.
This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.