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

Just Posted

A fire deliberately set in a washroom facility in Vernon’s transit terminal could cost the city around $25,000 to repair. (City of Vernon)
Vandalism forces Vernon to close public washrooms early

Despite changes made by city, vandalism on the rise at transit loop loos

Jane and Dennis Aubertin, Nicole Bell’s mother and step-father, stand with Jody Leon, founder of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Drone Search Team, with a poster of four women missing from the North Okanagan-Shuswap – Ashley Simpson, Caitlin Potts, Nicole Bell and Deanna Wertz. (Facebook photo)
Volunteers sought in search for Caitlin Potts

Missing Enderby woman last seen in 2016

Syilx artist Sheldon Pierre Louis contributed a new painting to UBC Okanagan’s public art collection. (UBC Okanagan)
Syilx artist contributes painting to UBCO public art collection

The new painting is titled cax̌alqs — red dress

Spread out on the staircase of the Kelowna courthouse on June 10, 2021, were several signs with messages calling for justice against Curtis Sagmoen and an end to violence. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News file)
Sagmoen cop assault trial set for 2022

Pre-trial conference set to start process Jan. 26, 2022

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Hot and cold water have different pouring sounds

Your morning start for Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Fire trucks parked near the McEachern Tobacco Barn on Wednesday, June 16.(Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Fire at heritage tobacco barn in Kelowna doused by residents

McEachern Tobacco Barn is on the city’s heritage register

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

Old growth in the Columbia Valley, in the Kinbasket area. (Photo submitted)
Wildsight: Old-growth forests are being logged in Golden

Wildsight says that Canfor has been logging old growth at the Blaeberry headwaters

MAKING MUSIC
The Dixie Fried Hep Katz recorded a promotional video at the Kettle Valley Steam Railway station featuring the railway’s steam locomotive. The young band from Enderby plays Canadian Rockabilly, with Porter Johnson, 20, writing, lead guitarist and vocals; sister Kyndra on drums; and Logan Bannick on bass. The band is using the locomotive to promote their song Spooky Train and help shed light on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway’s drive for donations. (Tom Burley photo)
Donations help with repairs of Summerland steam railway

Kettle Valley Steam Railway put out earlier call for railway ties, tires for locomotive

Elias Carmichael #14 and Ethan Ernst #19 of the Kelowna Rockets check Gage Goncalves #39 of the Everett Silvertips during a game at Prospera Place on February 28, 2020, in Kelowna. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
Fans expected to be back in the stands for Kelowna Rockets 2021-22 season

The Rockets haven’t played in front of a crowd since March 2020

The Okanagan Forest Task Force uses a Ford F350 pick-up truck to gather back country garbage. (Okanagan Forest Task Force/Contributed)
Kelowna Canadian Tire steps in to support Okanagan Forest Task Force

The volunteer group has removed over 351,000 pounds of illegally dumped garbage to date

Most Read