The noose found in the garage of the only black NASCAR driver, Bubba Wallace, during Sunday’s race series in Alabama was not a racist act, FBI investigators have announced.
According to older photos, the rope has been hanging in the garage since autumn of 2019 and was tied to a garage door handle in order to make easier to hoist the garage door open and closed. When it was first placed there, however, the garages had not yet even been assigned to specific drivers, meaning that nobody could have known Wallace would even be in the garage in question.
“The FBI has completed an investigation and found that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime,” NASCAR officials said in a statement. Therefore, no charges will be brought in the case.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps stated that he should have used the word “alleged” and not been so emotional during the initial announcement about the noose on Monday, in which he said it was a “heinous act,”
The incident follows a long line of hate crime hoaxes that have become widespread across the U.S. According to an extensive list, there were over 100 alone between 2006 an 2016.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 23, 2020
Wallace, who is the only full-time black driver on the NASCAR circuit, said he found the noose in the garage before the race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, which he then reported to the race organizers.
Following what many assumed was an expression of racial hatred, NASCAR drivers and fans expressed solidarity and support for Wallace. NASCAR drivers even walked with Wallaceto the starting line in protest against the alleged racist act on a NASCAR track.
“The sport is changing,” said Wallace, who was brought to tears by the gesture.
However, within 48 hours, Wallace’s claims of racism would unravel after 15 FBI agents, which began the investigation on Monday, concluded that no crime was committed.
“Both the FBI report and the photographic evidence show that the door control rope tied like a noose in the garage has been lying there since last autumn,” the racing organization said.
“That, of course, was long before the garage was booked and the team around racer 43 arrived. We appreciate the FBI’s swift and thorough investigation, and we’re glad it wasn’t a deliberate racist act against Bubb. We continue to stand firm on our commitment to offer everyone who loves racing an inclusive and warm environment,” said Nascar.
About two weeks ago, Wallace launched a campaign against the use of U.S. Confederate flags in car racing. After his calls succeeded and NASCAR banned the flag from tracks, some fans in Talladega protested the measure, saying the flag is waved to honor ancestors who fought in the Civil War.
Wallace was initially not conciliatory about the FBI’s findings and told CNN host Don Lemon, “From the evidence that we have — that I have, it’s a straight-up noose. Whether someone tied it in 2019… It wasn’t directed at me, but it was a noose.”
“I’m pissed. I’m mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity,” he told Lemon.
“Don, the image I have and I have seen of what was hanging in my garage is not a garage pull,” Wallace said. “I have been racing all my life. We have raced at hundreds of garages. That never had garage pulls like that.”
Wallace then backtracked shortly after his Lemon interview and said he was “embarrassed” in a statement posted on Twitter, adding that he was relieved by the investigation’s results but wants the sport to continue moving in the right direction of a more welcoming environment.
“I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been,” Wallace wrote. “Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday, and the progress we’ve made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all.”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 24, 2020
Some of Twitter users reminded of his strong immediate statements for media and questioned his integrity.
You probably should have consulted with your PR team before you went on Don Lemon last night.
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) June 24, 2020
Since 2016, there have been a number of prominent ones that have shocked the nation, including the infamous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. One research study found that only one in three hate hoaxes out of the 346 examined were actually genuine.
Title image: Driver Bubba Wallace walks to his car in the pits of the Talladega Superspeedway prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega Ala., Monday June 22, 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)