No hate crime: FBI investigation finds alleged ‘noose’ at Talladega Superspeedway has been in garage since at least October
It appears that Bubba Wallace, the only black driver in NASCAR’s Cup Series and a Mobile native, was not targeted with a noose at Talladega Superspeedway this past weekend.
Late Sunday, NASCAR issued a statement announcing “a noose” was left in the garage stall assigned to Wallace.
“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” NASCAR said at the time. “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.”
The incident came as Wallace has been very outspoken on racial issues and the culture of NASCAR, including the display of the Confederate flag, which NASCAR banned last week. Wallace also last week drove a special “Black Lives Matter” themed car during a race at Martinsville, VA.
NASCAR on Sunday further vowed to launch an investigation, and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Jay Town announced there would be a federal review to see whether a hate crime had occurred. Governor Kay Ivey on Monday released a statement apologizing for the incident.
“I am shocked and appalled to hear of yesterday’s vile act against Bubba Wallace in Talladega – there is no place for this disgusting display of hatred in our state,” the governor said. “Racism and threats of this nature will not be condoned nor tolerated, and I commit to assisting in any way possible to ensure that the person responsible for this is caught and punished. While the important conversation of racial reconciliation is ongoing all over our country, it is clear there is much work to do.”
However, following federal agents’ review, it appears that a racially motivated act did not occur.
In a joint statement on Tuesday afternoon, Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr., said, “On Monday, fifteen FBI special agents conducted numerous interviews regarding the situation at Talladega Superspeedway. After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed.”
“The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week,” they outlined. “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. 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.”
They concluded, “The decision not to pursue federal charges is proper after reviewing all available facts and all applicable federal laws. We offer our thanks to NASCAR, Mr. Wallace, and everyone who cooperated with this investigation.”
In a statement to Yellowhammer News reacting to the federal announcement, Ivey’s spokesperson said, “The governor appreciates the quick action by the FBI, NASCAR and all involved in this ongoing situation. She stands by her statement that there is no place for acts of racism and hatred in our state. Governor Ivey remains committed to continuing these important discussions on improvements to race relations and ensuring that Alabama is welcoming and inclusive to all.”
NASCAR also reacted in a statement, saying a “garage door pull rope” had been “fashioned like a noose.”
“We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing,” NASCAR concluded.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn