NASCAR Reports Talladega Noose Incident to FBI

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - JUNE 10: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet, wears a "I Can't Breath - Black Lives Matter" t-shirt under his firesuit in solidarity with protesters around the world taking to the streets after the death of George Floyd on May 25, stands next to his car painted with "Compassion, Love, Understanding" prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on June 10, 2020 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR has reported an incident in which a noose was found in a garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway to the FBI.  The noose was found in the stall being used by the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Black driver Bubba Wallace Sunday after the race was postponed by weather.

NASCAR issued a statement Sunday night:

“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.”

On Twitter, Wallace said the “the 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 ow persistent we must be in the fight against racism.”

“As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you,’” he wrote.  “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.”

The incident comes less than two weeks after Wallace spoke out against racism and at a time when the subject of racism is at the forefront of America sparked by the killing of a Black man in Minnesota in late May.  Wallace asked for the sport to ban the confederate flag from its events.

“What I’m chasing is checkered flags, and that was kind of my narrative,” Wallace said in an interview with CNN. “But diving more into it and educating myself, people feel uncomfortable with that, people talk about that — that’s the first thing they bring up.”

“My next step would be to get rid of all Confederate flags,” he added. “No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”

NASCAR issued a ban that same week.

The subject was first brought up in 2015, after a white supremacist killed nine African Americans inside a Charleston, S.C., church, then-NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France referred to the flag as an “offensive and divisive symbol.” NASCAR members were prohibited from displaying it, and fans were strongly discouraged from doing so, though not outright prohibited.

Officials have not said how they will enforce the ban, but up until this weekend only a limited number of fans were allowed at tracks.  1,000 fans were invited to the Homestead-Miami race last week, but for this week’s event at Talladega 5,000 were expected. None however were allowed in the infield and with weather moving the race to Monday, it’s unclear how many will actually attend.

While there have been no reports of any confederate flags inside the facility, Saturday and Sunday a small contingent of vehicles, less than 10, drove slowly by the track displaying confederate flags; a vendor across the street from the speedway displayed the flags for sale alongside the American flag and flags for Donald Trump.

Sunday morning a small plane flew overhead pulling a banner with the flag and the words “Defund NASCAR.”

NASCAR did not acknowledge the plane, however executive Steve O’Donnell tweeted a picture of black and white hands shaking with the words: “You won’t see a photo of a jackass flying a flag over the track here…but you will see this.” Rapper Ice Cube tweeted about the plane saying, “(Expletive) him NASCAR, you got new fans in this household.”

Greg Engle