Since the death of George Floyd, Bubba Wallace has been the unofficial spokesman for NASCAR in joining the national conversation on racial issues in America. His voice has resonated and prompted action, including his suggestion during a CNN interview that NASCAR ban all confederate flags from racing events. Two days later, NASCAR announced the flag ban.
Clearly, someone within the NASCAR family isn’t pleased with Wallace’s rising status or his message and has proven racism is alive and well within the racing community as a noose was found hanging in Wallace’s garage on Sunday.
Bubba Wallace’s activism prompting changes
In recent weeks, Bubba Wallace has used his platform to address the racial injustices and police brutality in the nation. He’s spoken of his own experiences, including a detailed account of how his unarmed 18-year-old cousin was shot and killed by police.
Wallace has spoken to many within the NASCAR community, including his fellow drivers, and educated them on what it’s like being a black man in America. Drivers and other big names in the sport have listened, and more importantly, responded.
Jimmie Johnson had a conversation with Wallace and felt compelled to act. The seven-time Cup Series Champion reached out to various NASCAR drivers and asked them to participate in a video against racism. Many responded and produced a powerful message.
In addition to talks, Wallace drove his No. 43 car with a Black Lives Matter theme in Martinsville. The car also had the phrase “Compassion, Love, Understanding” prominently featured on the hood and rear bumper.
Confederate flag and noose seen at today’s NASCAR event
This weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama marked the first time a large number of fans could enter a NASCAR event since the resumption of racing after the stoppage due to the pandemic. With its recent announcement, NASCAR prepared for the possibility of confiscating confederate flags or memorabilia brought in by fans. It didn’t happen.
While fans within the speedway were well behaved, NASCAR couldn’t do anything about a plane that flew overhead with a banner behind it that featured a confederate flag and had the words written behind it, “DEFUND NASCAR.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only hateful thing at Talladega.
At some point during the day, someone with exclusive access to the garage area left a noose hanging in the garage of the No. 43 car and Bubba Wallace. According to ESPN’s Marty Smith, Wallace never personally saw it, but once a member of his team did, they notified NASCAR officials.
NASCAR makes statement
NASCAR, who has surprised many by its progressive actions taken in recent weeks including the banishment of the confederate flag, immediately responded with a forceful message on the day’s events.
“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.”
Bubba Wallace responds
Bubba Wallace also offered a statement.
“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. Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry including other drivers and team members in the garage. Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone. Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate. As my mother told me today, “They are just trying to scare you.” This will not break me. I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”
NASCAR and Wallace’s statements both convey a simple yet powerful message—hate will not win.