Driver Bubba Wallace wears a Black Lives Matter shirt as he prepares for a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Martinsville, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Driver Bubba Wallace wears a Black Lives Matter shirt as he prepares for a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Martinsville, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

FBI investigating noose left in NASCAR stall of Black driver

NASCAR president says they will “rid this type of behaviour” from the sport

Federal authorities on Monday confirmed they are investigating the discovery of a noose found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only Black full-time driver who successfully pushed the stock car series to ban the Confederate flag at its venues less than two weeks ago.

U.S. Attorney Jay Town said his office, the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division were involved.

“Regardless of whether federal charges can be brought, this type of action has no place in our society,” Town said.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the noose was found Sunday afternoon by a crew member he did not identify and security as notified. He said security had been stepped up and the FBI was “currently on site” at the track, just two hours before Monday’s postponed race.

“This is a very, very serious act and we take it as such,” Phelps said. “We will rid this type of behaviour from our sport.”

The stock car series, founded in the South more than 70 years ago, has tried to distance itself from the flag for years at the risk of alienating a core group of its fan base. At Wallace’s urging, it went ahead with the ban as the nation grapples with social unrest largely tied to George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police.

NASCAR has not outlined how it will enforce the restriction and this week’s race at Talladega, in the heart of the South, presented the series with its biggest test in the early going. Disgruntled fans with Confederate flags drove past the main entrance to the Alabama race track prior to Sunday’s race, while a plane flew above the track pulling a banner of the flag that read “Defund NASCAR.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she was “shocked and appalled” by the “vile act” against Wallace, an Alabama native.

“There is no place for this disgusting display of hatred in our state,” Ivey said. “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.”

READ MORE: Long seen as radical, Black Lives Matter goes mainstream

Richard Petty, seven-time NASCAR champion and owner of Wallace’s famed No. 43, was at Talladega to support his driver. Petty, who turns 83 next month, has not attended a race during the pandemic and said in a statement he was “enraged by the act of someone placing a noose in the garage stall of my race team.”

“There’s absolutely no place in our sport or society for racism,” wrote the Hall of Famer known simply as “The King.” “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.”

Reaction from Wallace’s fellow drivers was immediate as they prepared for the rescheduled race. Retired four-time champion Jeff Gordon called it a “cowardly” act and Ryan Blaney, one of Wallace’s closest friends, tweeted: “You’re my brother and always will be. Don’t let the people who are lower than life to try and bring you down.”

“God help us,” NASCAR driver Michael McDowell tweeted. “The level of evil it takes to do something like this is disgusting. This is enraging and heartbreaking all at the same time.”

Phelps said he was the one who told Wallace about the noose.

“It was a difficult moment for Bubba, a difficult moment for me,” he said. “But he handled it with grace.”

The 26-year-old Wallace has not commented since a statement on social media late Sunday in which he 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 how 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.”

Wallace has worn a shirt that says “I Can’t Breathe” over his firesuit and sported a Black Lives Matter paint scheme in a race last month in Martinsville, Virginia. Wallace has said NASCAR assigned him two sheriff’s deputies for security at Martinsville after he called for the ban.

Five years ago, former NASCAR chairman Brian France tried to ban flying the flags at tracks, a proposal that was not enforced and largely ignored.

This year was different and it was Wallace who led the charge. Wallace, whose father is white, has said he began to find his public voice on racism after watching video in May of Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting in Georgia. He said he now recognizes he must not let his platform as a prominent driver go to waste.

Talladega is one of the more raucous stops on the NASCAR schedule, but the pandemic prompted the series, like all sports, to ban or sharply limit fans. With only 5,000 fans allowed in, the scene this week was a dramatic departure from the Talladega norm with plenty of room for social distancing and fans asked to wear masks.

Fans were not granted access to the infield or the restricted area of the Cup Series garage. Under strict new health guidelines, a very limited number of people can access the garage where the cars are kept. That would include crew members for each of the 40 teams, NASCAR employees, Talladega staff members and any contracted safety crews or security guards.

Drivers are not even permitted to enter the garage, instead going directly from their motorhomes to the race cars to drive. They were never called to the cars Sunday because of rain.

Phelps declined to discuss whether cameras in the garage area might have captured anything of value.

“It will be part of what the FBI is looking at,” he said

___

Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

racismUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elgin Wynd resident Ian Tyzzer says encroaching development is threatening the home and breeding ground of an endangered pigeon species. (Alex Browne photo)
Endangered pigeon habitat threatened by South Surrey development, residents fear

Elgin Wynd strata owners fear it’s too late to save trees where band-tailed pigeons roost

LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robot designed by Xenex Disinfection Services. (Contributed photo)
Germ-killing robot on the job at White Rock’s Peace Arch Hospital

Goal to match $100,000 donation met, say PAHF officials

A home on the corner of at the corner of 63B Avenue and 165A Street boasts a display of thousands of lights that bring in people throughout the city to check it out. The family also collects donations for BC Children's Hospital. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Lisa Batstone’s appeal of her conviction and sentence for the killing of her eight-year-old daughter is set for Jan. 12, 2021. (File photos)
South Surrey mother’s murder-appeal date set

Lisa Batstone is appealing her conviction and sentence in death of eight-year-old daughter

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

(Needpix.com)
Fraudsters projected to use pet scams to gouge over $3M from customers: BBB

The pandemic heavily contributed to the number of puppy scams

The westbound lanes of Highway 1 between Clearbrook and McCallum roads were closed to traffic Wednesday morning after a fatal collision involving a pedestrian.
Pedestrian dies after being struck by vehicle on Highway 1 in Abbotsford

Collision takes place early Wednesday morning between Clearbrook and McCallum roads

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Haley Callison. (Facebook photo)
Former B.C. pro hockey player frustrated with COVID-deniers after horrific bout with virus

Haleigh Callison hopes people will follow precautions and tone down the rhetoric

FILE – A near empty waterfront train platform is pictured in downtown Vancouver, Monday, April 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
TransLink disables some services for second day due to ‘suspicious network activity’

Customers cannot use credit card or debit card at fare gates or Compass card vending machines

A man stands in the window of an upper floor condo in Vancouver on March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Change made to insurance for B.C. condo owners amid rising premiums

Council CEO Janet Sinclair says the change will mean less price volatility

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:14 a.m.
Westbound Highway 1 lanes in Abbotsford closed as crews investigate serious crash

Crash occurred between McCallum and Riverside roads at around 4 a.m., next update at 8 a.m.

Most Read