*After NASCAR’s Sunday race at Talladega was postponed for rain, the organization announced late Sunday night that a noose had been discovered inside the garage of Bubba Wallace, the circuit’s only Black driver and the man who was brave enough to urge NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag.
The incident is currently under investigation by both the Department of Justice and the FBI. Because of NASCAR’s COVID-19 regulations, only essential personnel have been permitted to be at the track during races, with NASCAR President Steve Phelps previously estimating it to be about 900 people. That includes team members, NASCAR and track officials, safety crews and limited media, which only have press box access not the infield or garage.
Wallace tweeted Sunday that the “despicable act” left him “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.” He concluded: “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.”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 22, 2020
LeBron James tweeted his outrage over the act. “Sickening! @BubbaWallace my brother!” he wrote. “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!”
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! ??✊?? https://t.co/1TwkjVHai5
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 22, 2020
Wallace’s team owner Richard Petty showed unwavering support for his driver, saying in a tweet today, “I’m enraged by the act of someone placing a noose in the garage stall of my race team. There is absolutely no place in our sport or our society for racism. This filthy act serves as a reminder of how far we still have to go to eradicate racial prejudice and it galvanizes my resolve to use the resources of Richard Petty Motorsports to create change. The sick person who perpetrated this act must be found, exposed and swiftly and immediately expelled from NASCAR.”
Wallace originally started with Richard Petty Motorsports on a part-time basis during 2017 but became the official team driver ahead of the 2018 season. Petty continued: “I believe in my heart this despicable act is not representative of the competitors I see each day in the NASCAR garage area. I stand shoulder to shoulder with Bubba, yesterday, today, tomorrow and every day forward.”
The 82-year-old Petty stunned the sport with reports that he will attend Monday’s rescheduled Geico 500, his first race since the COVID-19 pandemic. The sources said that Petty believes the “most important thing for me right now is hugging my driver.” Also, Wallace’s fellow drivers will reportedly display a show of support before the race, which is scheduled to begin at 3:15 p.m. EST on FOX.
After the news broke late Sunday night, ESPN’s Marty Smith, who had been covering the race, joined Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter to share his reaction. He spoke uninterrupted for nearly five minutes about how shocking and disappointing it was that someone with close access to the drivers would do something so hateful.
NASCAR said in a statement, “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 or persons 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.”
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson also tweeted his support.
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) June 22, 2020