When Bubba Wallace successfully pressured NASCAR to not allow Confederate flags at races, he knew his principled stand would ruffle some feathers. But even still, what was found at the 26-year-old’s garage at Talladega Superspeedway is haunting.
At the first event with fans in attendance since the removal of the Confederate flag, a yet-unidentified person placed a hanging noose in the garage of the only full-time black driver at the Cup level.
“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,” NASCAR said in a statement.
“We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport.”
Wallace himself didn’t see the noose as a member of his team discovered and reported it; and while he said the event saddened him, he wouldn’t let it deter him.
“As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you,'” he wrote on Twitter. “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.”
As part of the international fervor surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers; Wallace became one of the many athlete voices calling for change.
He took to CNN on June 9, calling NASCAR to finally make the decision to ban Confederate flags from all NASCAR events. The sport did just that the very next day, saying “The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.”
Some people saw the decision as a victory for the cause. Others, of course, disagreed.
“People are disappointed that NASCAR has taken that stance. It’s been around for as long as all of us have been,” said Ed Suggs, who has spent more than two decades selling merchandise at NASCAR races.
“I don’t think anybody really connects it to any kind of racism or anything. It’s just a Southern thing, it’s transparent. It’s just a heritage thing.”
Some of those who disagreed took their first chance to exploit loopholes in the ban.
Many people parked on the boulevard just outside the track waving flags at those who drove by. A small plane also took to the air above Talladega, towing a Confederate flag along with the slogan “Defund NASCAR.”
No flags made it actually onto a NASCAR facility over the day and nothing was confiscated from anyone at Sunday’s race; which allowed 5,000 attendees on site to watch the action. NASCAR did not officially acknowledge either the cars lining the road near the speedway nor the plane.