President Donald Trump launched an attack on Bubba Wallace on Monday, demanding the only Black NASCAR driver apologize to everyone who supported him when it was reported a noose had been found in his garage stall.
Wallace had not seen the noose that was found in his garage stall at the Talladega Superspeedway at the end of June. A member of his team found it and flagged it to authorities. An FBI investigation found it had been there since at least October 2019 – used to close and open the garage door – and that Wallace had not been the target of a hate crime.
But President Trump blasted the driver – a staunch supporter of the Black Lives Matters movement who has worn an ‘I Can’t Breath’ t-shirt at events – for the ‘hoax’ as he called it. He also criticized NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag.
‘Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!,’ the president tweeted.
President Trump – seen on the Fourth of July with first lady Melania Trump – attacked Bubba Wallace, demanding the only Black NASCAR driver apologize to those who supported him during an investigation of a noose
Bubba Wallace had not seen the noose found in his garage at Talladega Superspeedway at the end of June but a member of his team found it and flagged authorities
Bubba Wallace’s statement in late June after the FBI finished its investigation
Wallace, at the time, thanked the FBI for treating the finding as a ‘real threat.’
‘I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been,’ the driver added.
NASCAR, a popular support among Trump supporters, is one of the few sports back in action after many were sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic. It has put into place several protocols to deal with the threat of the virus and also instituted other changes, including banning the Confederate flag from all NASCAR events and properties – something the stock car sport at Wallace’s urging.
While Trump accused NASCAR of getting low ratings for banning the Confederate flag, ratings were up after the initial decision. Sunday’s ratings, however, for a NASCAR race in Phoenix were down but that decline was in marked contrast to the high ratings for races in the prior two weeks.
The Confederacy has been on Trump’s mind as of late. He threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which funds the military, if it contains a provision to rename military installations named for figures from the Confederacy, a move that has bipartisan support in Congress.
The NDAA authorizes $731.3 billion in military spending and the Senate is expected to take up debate on it when lawmakers return to Washington D.C. the week of July 20th.
Wallace, after the FBI concluded its investigation of the noose on June 24, admitted he experienced 24 hours ‘just short of pure hell’ in its wake as several critics accused him of perpetuating a hoax.
The 26-year-old driver thanked the FBI its investigation and admitted to be relieved that it turned out to be an innocent door pull rather than a racist symbol.
‘It’s been an emotional few days,’ Wallace said in a statement after the FBI released its findings. ‘First off, I want to say how relieved I am that the investigation revealed that this wasn’t what it feared it was. I want to thank my team, NASCAR and the FBI for acting swiftly and treating this as a real threat. I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been.’
In a NASCAR statement, the item in question is described as a ‘garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose.’
The FBI announced that no hate crime had taken place and that the rope – which appeared to be tied into a loop or noose – had been in that stall as early as 2019.
A Youtube video from 2019 showed a similar pull rope hanging from the garage door in the same stall used by Wallace and his team at the Talladega Superspeedway over the weekend. At the time the video was taken, that specific stall was being used by a white driver, Paul Menard.
Other videos from previous years revealed that the garage door ropes – or ‘pulls’ as they’re called – were often tied into similar loops as early as 2016.
Wallace accepted that he wasn’t targeted, as had been feared after his vocal support of removing the Confederate flag from NASCAR tracks in the wake of recent anti-racism protests.
A Youtube video from 2019 showed a pull rope featuring a noose (circled) hanging from the garage door in the same stall used by Wallace and his team at Talladega. At the time the video was taken, it was being used by a white driver, Paul Menard
Videos from 2017 revealed that the garage door ropes at Talladega were often tied into nooses
Wallace did take aim at his critics, who accused him of making the inflammatory report.
Wallace defended himself against the perception that he personally made a false report.
‘It’s still frustrating to know that people are always going to test you and always just gonna try and debunk you,’ he told NBC. ‘That’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around now, from them saying that I’m fake and all this stuff, and I reported it when it was news that was brought to me, it was information that was brought to me that was already reported. So I was just kind of following suit.’
Wallace claims he was suspicious the supposed ‘noose’ was, in fact, a garage door pull, so he went looking for others to see if they were tied in a similar fashion.
‘When I did find out, I was adamant about searching all the other garages and making sure that this wasn’t a garage pull, and it ended up being one,’ he told NBC.
As for his mistaken belief that the rope was a racist message sent from an anonymous antagonist, Wallace defended himself by telling CNN that a ‘straight-up noose’ was found in his garage.
‘The photo evidence that I’ve seen, that I have in my possession, of what was in our garage, is exactly a garage pull, it is, that is a noose,’ he said. ‘I don’t know when we get to the point to release that image, but anybody sees it, it’s alerting and it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up for sure.’
He went on to say that he is ‘p****d’ with his critics who are using the incident to minimize accusations of racism within the sport.
The FBI’s statement revealed that 15 federal agents had investigated Wallace’s claim after the alleged noose was found.
Team owner Richard Petty, right, stands with driver Bubba Wallace prior to the start of the NASCAR Cup Series at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, Monday
A crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports had discovered the noose on Sunday at the Alabama race track.
The image of a noose recalls the lynching of black Americans in decades gone by and authorities investigated it as a possible hate crime.
However, the FBI stated that ‘the noose found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019’, long before the recent protests.
‘Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week,’ the statement said, saying that ‘no federal crime’ had been committed.
‘The decision not to pursue federal charges is proper after reviewing all available facts and all applicable federal laws,’ the statement concluded. ‘We offer our thanks to NASCAR, Mr. Wallace, and everyone who cooperated with this investigation.’
NASCAR released its own statement referring to the ‘noose’ as a ‘garage door pull rope’ and accepted the FBI’s finding that ‘this was not an intentional, racist act’.
‘For us in NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for,’ NASCAR president Steve Phelps said Tuesday after the FBI findings were announced.
‘This is … disturbing to hear that it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act. It is fantastic to hear from the FBI, definitively, that there was not a hate crime.
‘I do want to make sure everyone understands that, if given the evidence that we had was delivered to us on late Saturday afternoon, we would do the same thing. We would have done the same investigation. It was important for us to do. There is no place in our sport for this type of racism or hatred. It’s not part of who we are as a sport.’
Wallace said at the time he was ‘p****d’ by social media comments suggesting he had somehow fabricated the incident, stressing he had already left the garage when someone else spotted the noose.
The driver said he was ‘mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity’.
‘They’re not stealing that away from me, but they’re just trying to test that,’ he said.
‘The image I’ve seen of what was hanging in my garage was not a garage pull,’ he said.
‘I have been racing all my life, we have raced out of hundreds of garages that never had garage pulls like that.’
Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in NASCAR, is a staunch supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and encouraged NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its events
NASCAR drivers push the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, driven by Bubba Wallace, to the front of the grid as a sign of solidarity with the driver, who had pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag in its venues which made some fans unhappy
Confederate flags are a common sight for NASCAR, which originated in the south and remain a large part of the region’s identity. Race fans take a photo with a Confederate flag in the Fan Zone before a NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in 2015
Referring to the announcement of an investigation into the presence of the rope and the condemnation by the NASCAR leadership, the racer added, ‘The FBI has stated it was a noose over and over again. The NASCAR leadership has stated it was a noose. I can confirm that,’ he said.
‘I actually got evidence of what was hanging in my garage, over my car, around my pit crew guys, to confirm that it was a noose. And never seen anything like it.
‘I talked to my crew chief about it. I wanted to make sure we weren’t jumping the gun.
‘I said “this isn’t a knot?” He said, “Bubba, this isn’t something that can be done within a second of just tying a knot and being on the way. This is something that took time.”‘
Asked by CNN if he believed it was directed at him, an irate Wallace added: ‘It was a noose. It was a noose whether it was tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose.
‘So, it wasn’t directed at me but somebody tied a noose, that is what I am saying.’