The president of Nascar said Monday that the sports organization would ban anyone found to have placed a noose in driver Bubba Wallace’s garage at the Talladega Speedway in Alabama for life, a sign of how upset executives and drivers are after the racist symbol was discovered Sunday afternoon.
“This is a difficult time for our sport, but we are going to react swiftly,” said Steve Phelps, president of Nascar, during a call with reporters Monday afternoon.
Discovery of the noose comes less than a month after Nascar said it would ban the Confederate flag at its events in the wake of protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police. Wallace had called for the flag to be barred from Nascar events just days prior to the racing league’s decision to do so. Nascar said appearance of the flag was “contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been brought into the matter of finding who placed the noose, Phelps said. He declined to offer specific details around the probe, not commenting, for example, on whether cameras were operating in the garage. When asked who might have had access to the track and the facilities, the executive said that only “a very small number of people” are allowed in Nascar’s “footprint” at the site, and indicated that list would be shared with the FBI.
“We will be able to narrow that down,” he said. Asked whether an outsider may have gotten into the area, Phelps said such a breach would be “significant,” as the track area “is limited to essential personnel” while sports leagues are contending with the coronavirus pandemic.
Nascar has been one of the few national sports to find a way to resume operations despite the restrictions the contagion has placed on live-sports operations. Nascar has managed to stage races without fans in the stands, a boon to media companies like Fox Corp. that have rights to televise the events.
Phelps dismissed suggestions the incident could be a hoax, a theory that has been floated on social media. Such an idea is “something that personally offends me. This is a terrible, terrible act that has happened,” he said.
Other Nascar drivers may be planning a show of support for Wallace, the executive said. He indicated he had met directly with Wallace, whose team was allowed to inspect his car after the incident. This has been “‘a difficult moment for Bubba, a difficult moment for me,”said Phelps.