Federal authorities say a noose found in the team garage of African-American race car driver Bubba Wallace at an Alabama race track was not a hate crime.
A joint statement issued Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special agent Johnnie Sharp said an extensive investigation revealed the noose had been hanging in the garage at Talladega Superspeedway since last October, and that it was a coincidence that Wallace’s team had been assigned that garage.
A statement issued by NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) said the noose, which was found Sunday by a member of Wallace’s race team, was a garage door pull rope fashioned in the shape of a noose.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps told reporters during a conference call that the results of the FBI investigation was “the best result we could hope for,” but insisted the organization would continue with its own investigation.
A noose is commonly associated with lynching, the extrajudicial killing of Blacks and other minorities carried out mainly in the southern United States.
Several of Wallace’s fellow drivers pushed his car to the front of pit row Monday before the start of a race that had been postponed for a day due to heavy rain. The procession moved past an area on the infield grass with the phrase “#IStandWithBubba” painted on it.
Wallace is the lone African American driver in NASCAR’s premier Cup Series. He drew widespread support earlier this month when he successfully urged NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its races in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis last month. The flag, which represented the slave-owning southern states that split from the North during the 1861-65 Civil War, remains a prominent symbol of southern culture, but many African Americans consider the flag a lasting symbol of slavery, racism and white supremacy.
Floyd’s death has sparked a backlash against other perceived symbols of white supremacy, including statues of Confederate generals and other historical figures. Some statues have either been defaced or torn down by protesters, or removed by local officials.
Like the Confederate flag, NASCAR also has deep roots in southern U.S. culture. Protesters on Saturday and Sunday drove cars and trucks flying the Confederate flag on the roads near Talladega Superspeedway.