The FBI released preliminary findings from its investigation into a noose found in the garage of NASCAR‘s highest-ranked Black driver, and it came across as the equivalent of a shrug of indifference.
The symbol of racist hate associated with lynchings was found in the garage stall Bubba Wallace Jr. was using ahead of a race in Alabama this past weekend. NASCAR condemned it and the FBI announced it was beginning its own probe. But no federal crime was committed, the FBI said. The federal law enforcement agency went so far as to say that noose wasn’t even new and had been in that location for months.
Therefore, the FBI announced, it was closing the case and moving on.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 23, 2020
Nevermind where the noose came from. Nevermind that the noose just happened to be discovered days after Wallace successfully pressured NASCAR to abandon the Confederate Flag it had been flying above all its races for decades. Nevermind that banning that flag generated resentment among at least one driver, who decided he would quit driving altogether in support of the flag.
It was an interesting and unexpected turn of events one day after Wallace led dozens of his NASCAR racing colleagues on a symbolic lap around the track at the Talladega Superspeedway in an effort to promote racial unity and harmony.
The FBI’s announcement came hours after Wallace tweeted his thank to fans.
Supporting and thanking the pre-existing fans, and encouraging the new ones. For all of those new to the sport, we welcome you with open arms. pic.twitter.com/M44hCCPngr
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 23, 2020
“I don’t want it to be remembered as a terrible day or a bad day in NASCAR,” Wallace’s friend and race winner Ryan Blaney said afterwards. “I want it to be remembered as there was an incident and we all overcame it together and showed that we’re not going to take it anymore.”
The noose was reported as a series of suspected lynchings of Black and brown men took place in recent weeks. That was in addition to the ongoing protests against racism and police violence following multiple killings of Black people by law enforcement.
The noose was found Sunday, prompting NASCAR to announce that it was “angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act.”
Shortly after NASCAR’s announcement, Watson issued his own comments decrying the noose and saying the apparent threat wouldn’t deter him from trying to rid racism from his chosen profession.
“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,” Wallace said in a brief statement released on social media “Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry including other drivers and team members in the garage. Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone. Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate. As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you.’ 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.”
The noose incident followed the abrupt resignation of one NASCAR driver who didn’t like the Confederate Flag being removed from races. Ray Ciccarelli announced June 10 that he would leave NASCAR at the end of the season. He said on Facebook that it’s “been a fun ride and dream come true,” but if this is the direction NASCAR is headed, he will not partake in NASCAR races after the 2020 season is done. The Truck Series driver who has won exactly zero races ever said he doesn’t condone kneeling during the national anthem and he doesn’t believe in “taken people right [sic] to fly what ever [sic] flag they love.”
Racism and NASCAR seem to have an inseparable bond. It was only in April when Kyle Larson had to find out the hard way that saying the N-word has consequences after the now-former NASCAR drivercouldn’t resist the urge to say it during an online video gaming session that was streaming live over the internet. “You can’t hear me? Hey, n-gger,” Larson said for seemingly no reason other than his own apparent implicit racism. The other players online told Larson they heard what he said, but, perhaps more tellingly, none of them condemned him for it.
For full context, NASCAR has a lengthy history of racist discrimination against Black people, including its historic $225 million settlement in 2008 with a former official who accused the car racing association of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.
Vibe documented just how white of a sport NASCAR racing actually is. “NASCAR has both the whitest viewership – an estimated 94 percent, to the 92 percent of the National Hockey League – and the whitest group of participants of any American sport by percentage,” Jay Scott Smith reported last year. He noted that NASCAR racing was significantly whiter than even the NHL, which had 25 Black players out of nearly 700 total.