This kind of thing, we tell ourselves, should not be happening in 2020. And yet here it is: a hangman’s noose was found in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s garage space at the Talladega Raceway. Wallace is the only African-American to race full time in NASCAR’s top-rung racing series.
The rope was found on Sunday, day on which a race was set to be held at the race track in Alabama. The race was postponed to Monday due to severe thunderstorms that swept through the region yesterday.
NASCAR immediately launched an investigation to find the culprit(s) for the heinous act. In regards to such acts, the organization issued a statement reiterating that it wants to "eliminate them from the sport”. Sadly, it’s clear that this is an ‘inside job’; no spectators have been allowed inside the garages area since the return to action of the circuit this past May.
“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. 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 statement
Bubba Wallace wrote on Twitter that “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.”
The context of this particular incident is meaningful, of course, as it took place on the first day of the Confederate flag being officially banned from NASCAR events. In Talladega, a crowd of soe 5,000 people were admitted to the race. As mentioned, none of them had access to the garages.
Racism is a plague that NASCAR has always struggled with. The sport, which originated in the southeastern states of the United States, was longa "whites only" affair, and people from other ethnic groups did not feel welcome there over the years. Things are changing, though slowly. Too slowly.
This news is frankly sickening.
If there's good news to be found in all of this, it's that the racing community has risen up as one to defend Bubba Wallace, and support has come from beyond as well. NBA star LeBron James posted a message of support for Bubba Wallace:
“Know you don’t stand alone! I’m right here with you as well as every other athlete. I just want to continue to say how proud I am of you for continuing to take a stand for change here in America and sports!”
- LeBron James
Bubba Wallace himself has proudly worn in a Black Lives Matter jersey during the last few NASCAR events.
Here’s hoping the culprits will be quickly found and harshly condemned for their despicable act.