Less than two weeks on from the banning of Confederate flags at Nascar events, one of the drivers who’d called for them to go - Bubba Wallace - had a noose left in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway.
In a statement, the National National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing said:
“Late this afternoon, Nascar was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team.
“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport.
“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.”
Wallace, the only black driver in any of Nascar’s top three categories, posted his own statement about the incident on Twitter. “This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down,” he said.
Speaking to CNN before the banning of Confederate flags, Wallace said: “No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
The battle flag of the Confederacy - the side that fought to uphold the institution of slavery in the American Civil War - was, up until recently, a common sight at Nascar races. At the weekend a plane was spotted flying over Talladega towing a Confederate flag and the message ‘defund Nascar’, nonsensically referencing the call of Black Lives Matter protesters to ‘defund the police’.
Update: An FBI investigation into the matter was closed on Tuesday, with the Bureau concluding it was an “unfortunate misunderstanding”. The noose is believed to be part of a pulling system for the door and had been in the garage for some time. None of the other garages had ropes like this, which prompted Nascar to open its initial investigation.
Wallace told NBC News:
“I was relieved, just like many others, to know that it wasn’t targeted towards me, but it’s still frustrating to know that people are always going to test you and always just going to try to debunk you.”
He added, “It was a rope pull for the garage door…but it was definitely in the shape of a noose. It wasn’t a functioning noose…The photo evidence that I’ve seen and that I have in my possession [shows] of what was in our garage is exactly a garage pull. It is. That is a noose. I don’t know when we’ll get to the point to release that image…It’s alerting and it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”