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Federal agencies, NASCAR investigating noose left in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall

The Gieco 500 race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Oct. 10, 2014. The Talladega Superspeedway is NASCAR’s most competitive track. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert)

Federal agencies are investigating the discovery of a noose found in the garage stall of NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, who is black, at Talladega Superspeedway. 

Jay Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said Monday that his office, the FBI and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division are looking into the incident. 

“The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Alabama, FBI and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division are reviewing the situation surrounding the noose that was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage to determine whether there are violations of federal law. Regardless of whether federal charges can be brought, this type of action has no place in our society,” Town said in a statement.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement Monday morning condemning the act and calling for unity.

The noose was left by someone at the first race in Alabama after NASCAR announced it had banned Confederate flags at races and on NASCAR property. The move resulted in an outpouring of support from many, and an outcry from some who spent Saturday and Sunday driving outside the Talladega racetrack with Confederate flags on display. 

An airplane on Sunday flew over the track with a Confederate flag and banner that read “Defund NASCAR.” 

“I am shocked and appalled to hear of yesterday’s vile act against Bubba Wallace in Talladega — there is no place for this disgusting display of hatred in our state,” Ivey said in a statement. “Racism and threats of this nature will not be condoned nor tolerated, and I commit to assisting in any way possible to ensure that the person responsible for this is caught and punished. While the important conversation of racial reconciliation is ongoing all over our country, it is clear there is much work to do. Bubba Wallace is one of us; he is a native of Mobile and on behalf of all Alabamians, I apologize to Bubba Wallace as well as to his family and friends for the hurt this has caused and regret the mark this leaves on our state. I ask the NASCAR family to rally around Bubba and his team as they compete today and I know that there are more people who are wishing him well today than ever before.”

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“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,” NASCAR said in a statement. 

Wallace in a statement on Twitter Sunday evening said the action saddens him, but it won’t break him. 

“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,” Wallace said in the post. “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 banned the confederate flag in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, which sparked protests nationwide and a call for the removal of signs of the Confederacy, vestiges of the South’s fight to retain slaves and the Civil War that followed. 

Wallace had called for NASCAR to ban the flag, and had his car wrapped in a “Black Lives Matter” paint scheme. 

“I think by running this branding on our car, putting the hashtag out there, bringing more awareness to it, it lines up with the videos that we had put out as NASCAR,” Wallace told CNN. “Listening and learning. Educating ourselves. So people will look up what this hashtag means. And hopefully get a better understanding.”

One person commented on Wallace’s tweet Sunday on the noose, expressing support for the only back driver in NASCAR’s top tier. 

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“God Bless ya, brother. For every racist scumbag out there, there’s thousands of us who appreciate everything you’ve been doing to make NASCAR more racially inclusive. I wasn’t even a NASCAR fan until I saw you rightfully and courageously speak out on race and NASCAR. Thank you,” the man tweeted to Wallace.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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