An FBI investigation into the noose NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace found in his stall at a race last week revealed the looped rope wasn’t a noose at all.
The nation’s foremost investigative agency launched a federal hate crime probe. This comes after Wallace – the top NASCAR league’s only African American driver – said he found a noose hanging in his stall at Talladega Speedway in Alabama leading up to a race last week. Wallace believed the noose was a threat intended to intimidate him and silence his support for social causes. However, the FBI found the so-called noose was actually a pull-down rope for a garage door. It is said that it had been in place since October of 2019. Shortly after the FBI’s discovery, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama – Jay E. Town – said the investigation had concluded that a hate crime had not been committed.
“The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week. The investigation also revealed evidence, including authentic video confirmed by NASCAR, that the noose found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019,” the FBI said in a statement. “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.”
Wallace’s Support for the Protests
Wallace has become a lightning rod over the past few weeks for his vocal support of recent protests. He’s also expressed support for NASCAR’s recently-imposed ban of Confederate flags at its races. Wallace apparently believed the noose was intended as a threat against him over his recent statements. However, the FBI investigation proves he was mistaken.
After the FBI findings were revealed, some observers on social media wondered if Wallace used the so-called noose as a publicity stunt. This speculation has some merit. Photographs of the pull-down rope seem to show it was obviously intended to open the garage door. It was located near the front of the garage, immediately adjacent to the garage door. Therefore, its placement didn’t seem to be indicative of a threat. Also, the rope had been in place for over a year. Therefore, it seems odd that no one in the facility would’ve pointed this out to Wallace and his team before they made it into a national controversy.
NASCAR vehemently denied that the rope was a publicity stunt. NASCAR President Steve Phelps told reporters on a Tuesday conference call that the rope was there since the previous Cup Series race in the fall and Wallace’s team had nothing to do with its placement. However, that explanation doesn’t preclude the possibility that someone may have exploited the pulldown rope to generate more publicity for social causes and drum up support for NASCAR reforms.
Despite the FBI’s conclusion, Wallace is adamant that the pull-down rope was intended as racist imagery. He described the rope as a “straight-up noose” and said he’s never seen anything like it before. “I’ve been racing all of my life,” Wallace told CNN’s Don Lemon. “We’ve raced out of hundreds of garages that never had garage pulls like that. So people that want to call it a garage pull and put out all the videos and photos of knots being as their evidence, go ahead, but from the evidence that we have – and I have – it’s a straight-up noose.”
Now, Wallace has concluded that the rope was not directed towards him, but he still believes it was a noose. He also expressed frustration that some were questioning his character over the incident. “It doesn’t matter if we provide evidence, photos … I will always have haters,” he added. He also noted that he had not personally seen the so-called noose himself. However, he had seen enough photo and video evidence to support his conclusions.
The FBI concluded its investigation, but NASCAR still has questions. The league is conducting an ongoing investigation into the matter to determine the pull-down rope’s origins.