Controversy ensued last weekend when NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace reported finding a noose in his garage stall. Wallace was partially responsible for NASCAR banning the Confederate flag from its events and the noose was initially believed to be a response to that event.
According to The Washington Post, an investigation conducted by the FBI has found that hate crime had not been committed against Wallace because the noose had been hanging in the garage since at least last October. “The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall. This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment,” a statement released by NASCAR read.
From The Washington Post:
U.S. Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said an investigation determined “although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed the development Tuesday evening but did not take questions in a conference call with reporters.
“For us at NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for,” Phelps said. “It was disturbing to hear that it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act. It is fantastic to hear from the FBI definitively that there was not a hate crime.
“I do want to make sure everyone understands that if given the evidence that we had was delivered to us [Sunday] night or [Sunday] afternoon, we would do the same thing. We would have done the same investigation. It was important for us to do. There is no place in our sport for this type of racism or hatred. It’s not part of who we are as a sport.”
NASCAR president Steve Phelps clarified that Wallace’s team had no involvement in the placement of the noose. “The 43 team had nothing to do with this. The evidence is very clear that the noose that was in that garage had been in the garage previously. The last race we had had there in October, that noose was present, and it was—the fact that it was not found until a member of the 43 team came there is something that is a fact. We had not been back to the garage. It was a quick one‑day show. The crew member went back in there. He looked and saw the noose, brought it to the attention of his crew chief, who then went to the NASCAR series director Jay Fabian, and we launched this investigation,” Phelps said in a conference call on Tuesday.
Wallace is the only Black driver in NASCAR’s top-tier Cup series. Wallace has been outspoken in his support for Black Lives Matter. This has resulted in NASCAR fans renouncing the sport and one driver announcing his retirement after the Confederate flag ban. One driver team felt the need to unveil a “Blue Lives Matter,” car because white people are gonna white people.
After the noose was found in the garage, multiple drivers and crew member rallied around Wallace. In a moving show of support, multiple teams walked his car to the starting grid during Monday’s race at the Talladega Speedway in Alabama. While this may have been a false alarm, judging by the reactions to the the flag ban and Wallace’s activism, there is still much work to be done in the sport.