It was a dark day at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama, on Sunday. Two incidents, one which directly threatened the life of NASCAR’s only Black driver, proved that change will not be coming to the racing series overnight.
A team member of NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace found a noose hanging in Wallace’s garage late Sunday evening and alerted NASCAR officials to the symbol of racial violence and murder. Wallace has been an outspoken supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and outfitted his car in a livery supporting racial equality. NASCAR is investigating the incident according to ESPN:
“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,” NASCAR said in a statement. “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.”
Thankfully, Wallace never saw the noose. NASCAR reporter Bob Pockrass tweeted this morning that the Talladega County Sheriff said NASCAR reported the incident to the FBI, which would handle any criminal investigation. Bubba Wallace also addressed the incident on his social media:
This incident occurred not two weeks after Wallace successfully lobbied to get the Confederate flag banned from races, a move NASCAR has attempted in the past but never really enforced.
While there were no Confederate flags inside the superspeedway the symbol of oppression and hate (save the IT’S MY CULTURE comments for someone who gives a damn) was on full display outside and even made an appearance in the sky after someone flew a Confederate flag over the track. From ESPN:
NASCAR did not acknowledge the plane or its banner, though executive vice president Steve O’Donnell tweeted a picture on Sunday of black and white hands shaking: “You won’t see a photo of a jackass flying a flag over the track here...but you will see this...Hope EVERYONE enjoys the race today.”
The flags lined the road into the track along side a sign declaring ‘Defund NASCAR’ which is particularly confusing. Do racist fans think tax dollars go to NASCAR? They are the ones funding the races by attending and watching races and buying the products and services that sponsor cars. But this is also a group that thinks the Civil War wasn’t fought over the right to own slaves, despite slave states stating that purpose in their decelerations of succession over and over again, so maybe critical thinking isn’t their strongest suit.
Wallace was publicly supported by fellow drivers and other athletes alike. Dale Earnhardt Jr. weighed in, tweeting “Hope Bubba wins it tomorrow,” after the race was delayed due to weather. Fellow driver Michael McDowell tweeted “God help us. The level of evil it takes to do something like this is disgusting. This is enraging and heartbreaking all at the same time,” and LeBron James tweeted:
“Sickening! @BubbaWallace my brother! Know you don’t stand alone! I’m right here with you as well as every other athlete. I just want to continue to say how proud I am of you for continuing to take a stand for change here in America and sports! @NASCAR I salute you as well!”
There was a note of hope yesterday as well. Wallace’s Black Lives Matter livery is now being joined by Denny Hamlin’s car, which FedEx updated to replace its logo with one for the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.
Hopefully, considering that the paddock area is pretty locked down due to NASCAR working to protect drivers from COVID-19, it won’t be too terribly difficult to find the jackass who made this threat on a driver’s life. Fans aren’t allowed in the driver’s areas, so it’s entirely likely that the noose was placed by an employee of a racing team. Considering a driver attempted to run a Blue Lives Matter livery (the car was struck following a fire) as a direct response to Wallace’s car is an indication that both the internal and fan culture at NASCAR needs a lot of work. An unjust culture can change slowly, but a zero tolerance policy from NASCAR will hopefully speed things up.