CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV/AP) - The FBI has concluded that NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace was not a victim of a hate crime as a “noose” found in his garage stall had been there since last year.
The FBI started investigating after the discovery of the “noose” found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of Bubba Wallace.
The FBI report concluded, and NASCAR says photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall.
On Thursday, June 25, NASCAR released a photo of the noose. They released the photo to give a sense of why they called the FBI in, and they say they don’t regret calling them in.
“As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said. “With similar emotion, others across our industry and our media stood up to defend the NASCAR family. Our NASCAR family. Because they are part of the NASCAR family, too. We are proud to see so many stand up for what’s right.”
Officials did a scan of all the tracks that NASCAR races at and of all the rope pull-downs at their garages, they say only one was fashioned in a noose and that was the one in Wallace’s garage.
Phelps and NASCAR take responsibility for some of the wording in the original press release. They say they should have said “allegedly” and maybe should not have called it a “heinous crime” without all the evidence being investigated. Phelps says the 43 team and Bubba Wallace had nothing to do with this,
No federal charges will be filed.
“The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week,” a joint statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI said. “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.”
Phelps said soon after the investigation concluded that the series is continuing its own investigation to determine why a noose had been in that garage stall at all. He added that it wasn’t directed at Wallace was “a great conclusion for us” but was adamant NASCAR would have conducted its investigation the same way even now knowing it wasn’t a hate crime.”
“This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment. 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,” a statement from NASCAR read.
Wallace is NASCAR’s only Black full-time driver.
Two weeks ago, Wallace successfully pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its venues. President Steve Phelps says security has been stepped up for Wallace since the “noose” was found on Sunday. A crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports discovered the noose Sunday at the Alabama race track. NASCAR was alerted and contacted the FBI, which sent 15 agents to the track to investigate.
The Wood Brothers Racing team said one of its employees informed the team he recalled “seeing a tied handle in the garage pull down rope from last fall,” when NASCAR raced at Talladega in October. The team said it immediately alerted NASCAR and assisted the investigation.
“The decision not to pursue federal charges is proper after reviewing all available facts and all applicable federal laws,” the statement said. “We offer our thanks to NASCAR, Mr. Wallace, and everyone who cooperated with this investigation.”
NASCAR rallied around Wallace after the discovery of the noose. All 39 of his rival drivers and their crews helped push Wallace’s car to the front of pit road on Monday before the national anthem and stood behind him in solidarity.
On Wednesday, Wallace tweeted a statement saying he was relieved the investigation revealed that this wasn’t a hate crime.
“It’s been an emotional few days. First off, I want to say how relieved I am that the investigation revealed that this wasn’t what we feared it was. I want to thank my team, NASCAR and the FBI for acting swiftly and treating this as a real threat. I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been. Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday, and the progress we’ve made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all,” Wallace wrote.