UPDATE: Wallace doubles-down, photos appeared to show “a straight-up noose.” See video.
With absolute certainty, a stentorian Fox Sports announcer for Sunday’s Talladega 500 decried “what happened here yesterday afternoon” … “a despicable act by someone, flying directly in the face of NASCAR’s efforts to build a culture that is diverse, equal, and welcoming.”
Calling racing “the great equalizer,” the scene on television was one of unity in the face of what many believed to be an act of racial hatred — a hangman’s noose that was allegedly left over Bubba Wallace‘s No. 43 stock car. Who would oppose a general gesture of interracial good will? None of his fellow racers did, nor did racing legend Richard Petty who joined in as they all pushed No. 43 to the starting line. By now the vision is in emblazoned in our heads as the large Confederate battle flag that flew over the ‘Dega that day in protest of NASCAR’s recent Confederate flag ban.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 22, 2020
Wallace, though he noted on ABC’s “The View” that he was cooperating with an FBI investigation, and that he did not “see it [the noose] directly,” also plunged in with that absolute certainty that any skeptic must be “simple-minded.”
“It’s simple-minded people like that, the ones that are afraid of change, they use everything in their power to defend what they stand up for … instead of trying to listen and understand what’s going on,” Wallace said.
.@BubbaWallace on those who believe the noose incident was staged: “It’s simple-minded people like that, the ones that are afraid of change, they use everything in their power to defend what they stand up for… instead of trying to listen and understand what’s going on.” pic.twitter.com/FikMntalwO
— The View (@TheView) June 23, 2020
The FBI investigation, as it is well-known by now, turned up no evidence that a noose was left. Rather, it seems a noose-shaped garage door pull was mistaken for a noose, or at least reported as such to NASCAR authorities.
Now that the federal investigation is clear, we know more about how the report transpired. According to a statement from Richard Petty Motorsports (see left), a member of their team saw the garage pull and contacted a crew chief, who in turn notified NASCAR. It appears NASCAR President Steve Phelps (who stated he was offended by those who doubted the situation) notified Wallace. Phelps later promised anyone caught would be “dealt with severely.”
We include NASCAR’s statement on the conclusion of the investigation in our analysis below.
From the hip: The View segment did not age well, nor did many of the #StandWithBubba shows of support from celebrities and politicians of all stripes.
But as bad as a hoax would have been, there was something worse exposed: the all-too-real pessimism that exists when it comes to race relations in America.
The expectation by NASCAR officials was that intense racial hatred must be afoot if anyone dares to oppose the recent move to excise the Confederate battle flag from track properties. Yes, fans were angry and upset with this move, including displays all around the famed Alabama raceway and in the sky above via an airplane banner.
That there would be protests was a given. But that NASCAR found themselves with a golden opportunity to earn some sympathy for its efforts to expand its diversity profile made for an irresistible opportunity. To shine a spotlight on Wallace, one of the sport’s more successful black drivers and the only full-time driver in the cup series (despite recent controversy over his raging actions on the track) was icing on the cake.
A recently promoted Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Brandon Thompson, must have been eager to get in and show the world that this isn’t your grandfather’s moonshine-running, Rebel-flag waving, redneck sport, but on the vaunted level of the NFL and taking a knee. Thompson, who got his start under a NASCAR diversity internship in 2003, said “discussions” over what to do with NASCAR’s image have been taking place for many years. Now, he said, the sport must “lend our voices and our platform, as an industry, to the issues surrounding social justice or diversity and inclusion.”
Social justice activism was the motive here, not so much a desire for the truth to come out. Now that the investigation is complete, will race fans get an apology for the emotional tug-of-war and spectacle they had to endure over the weekend? Judging by NASCAR’s statement it’s not very likely:
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 23, 2020
Mainstream media headlines are reporting tepidly that “no federal crimes were committed.” There is practically no discussion about the jumping to conclusions, or the possibility of a Jussie Smollett-like plea for attention. Just “Whew! We sure are glad that wasn’t really racism, but we’ll ‘remain steadfast’ just in case.”
Don’t expect an apology from Thompson or Wallace this weekend at Pocono, or to see the racers walking together in solidarity for truth — at least not when social justice warriors are calling the shots at the corporate level and care more about feelings than fact.
We’ll get plenty of “race on” messages from now through Sunday and then finally a “let’s move on” statement to substitute for any show of repentance or simple correction of the facts. And that’s the real injustice that was perpetrated at Talledega.
Wallace said via “CNN Tonight,” according to the photos he was shown on Sunday evening, it appeared to be a noose, and not like any garage door pull he has seen in his experience. NASCAR President Phelps insisted a “hate crime” had been committed, he said. Wallace defended his character.
"I'm pissed. I'm mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity." – NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace on social media reaction to the conclusion of the FBI investigation into the noose found in his team's garage https://t.co/YH4ynYqv64 pic.twitter.com/fB0m9Yj9FD
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) June 24, 2020