A noose was placed in African-American NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s race stall, prompting outrage from the sports world. From LeBron James to Shanon Sharpe, to those in the NASCAR community, here has been their response.
Continue reading on Forbes
Sunday night, the sports world was rocked at the news that a noose had been found in the garage stall of the #43 car driven by Bubba Wallace. Wallace, who is African-American, races for Richard Petty Motorsports. The incident happened after the race at Talladega Superspeedway was postponed due to heavy rain till Monday (3pm ET on FOX).
“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team,” NASCAR said in a statement. “We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. 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 said it would work with law enforcement to see if any laws had been broken as part of the act.
The incident occurred on the same day that a plane towing a confederate flag flew over the track with the words “Defund NASCAR” dragging behind it.
A shift in NASCAR has occurred in the wake of the incident in Minneapolis in which an officer used his knee on the neck of George Floyd for 8:46 seconds before he died. Since then protests have brought the issue of Black Lives Matter to the forefront. On June 10, they joined other sports in condoning racism by banning the confederate flag as part of their events.
“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,” a statement by NASCAR read. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
The sports world was shocked at the news of the noose in Wallace’s race stall. The event was off-limits to fans meaning someone within the racing community likely planted it.
Bubba Wallace released a statement that read in part, “Today’s 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.”
Andrew Murstein, owner of Richard Petty Racing, who Wallace drives for said, “You would like to think that the country has changed for the better in the last 40-plus years. Unfortunately, in many ways, it hasn’t.”
Jeff Gluck, one of the top motorsports reporters in the country – primarily NASCAR for The Athletic said,” Absolutely sick to my stomach and beyond disgusted” of the news.
Marty Smith made an emotional and impassioned commentary on ESPN saying that whoever did this was setting the sport back. In some comments prior, he used the word “s***” but calmed down enough for this segment with Scott Van Pelt on ESPN SportsCenter.
NFL Hall of Famer turned television sports talk personality mentioned Smith, and how the battle between those that are fighting against NASCAR’s racist element is likely to see continued resistance.
NBA superstar LeBron James weighed in supporting Wallace and NASCAR saying, “Sickening! Bubba Wallace my brother! 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! NASCAR, I salute you as well!
And Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who was just announced as an inductee into NASCAR Hall of Fame made it clear where he hoped the rain postponed race would go.
As a personal commentary, I’m someone that grew up around racing, and continues to support it. But I am beyond disgusted as this news. NASCAR is long overdue for this change and in many conversations I have been repeatedly told how the sanctioning body wishes to grow its diversity. That there are those within the sport that continues to hold onto the backward ways of racism is not what this country should be about. And to make it clear, I can’t really say what I want to say professionally here at Forbes.
NASCAR, born in the south, has long had its ties to the confederate flag. But as the sport has tried to balance retaining heritage fans, and grow the sport through the likes of Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suárez, and the NASCAR Diversity Internship. As sports, and the nation at move toward recognizing racial inequality, the shift to become more inclusive will be a challenge.