After a tumultuous couple of days, Bubba Wallace made the media rounds Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, after the FBI reported that the noose found in his garage stall Sunday had been there for as far back as October and therefore was not a hate crime directed at the only Black driver in NASCAR’s top tier.
Speaking to CNN’s Don Lemon Tuesday night, Wallace pulled no punches as to what was found in his garage.
“People want to call it a garage-pull, and put out old videos and photos of knots, as their evidence,” said Wallace. “But from the evidence that we have, that I have, it’s a straight-up noose.
Update: On ESPN’s morning debate show First Take, Wallace noted that the noose was discovered by a Black member of his team, who then looked at other garage pulls to see if they too were fashioned into a noose. According to Wallace he found none. ESPN reported as such, stating that the FBI had found only one garage pull fashioned into a noose, that being the one discovered in Wallace’s No. 4 garage.
“Whether tied in 2019 or whatever,” said Wallace on Lemon’s late-night show. “It was a noose. So it wasn’t directed at me, but somebody tied a noose, that’s what I’m saying.”
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Speaking to CNN’s John Berman Wednesday morning, Wallace did express some relief that he was not the target of a hate crime.
“It was a relief for sure,” said Wallace. “Being able to talk to [the FBI]. Was able to tell my family. Was just dealing with facts that were given to me.”
The facts that were given to Wallace was that a noose was discovered in his garage stall by a member of his team, who passed along this information directly to NASCAR.
According to Wallace, a very emotional NASCAR President Steve Phelps delivered the news to him personally.
“One of the most difficult conversions I believe he has ever had to have,” said Wallace. “Tears flowing down his face. And [he] choked up on every word.”
It has been an emotional time for NASCAR after it announced the banning of the Confederate flag from its races, a move that more than angered many of its fans. Phelps went from tears with Bubba early this week to quite upbeat during a conference call with the media Tuesday in which he declared the FBI’s reports, “The best result we could hope for.”
But here’s the thing, if the use of a noose as a garage door pull is the best result we could hope for, what does that say about the mentality of those within NASCAR? What does that say about the people who used that noose on a regular basis who said nothing about it? And why did it take the team of the only Black driver to report it?
Phelps was not taking questions Tuesday night, so we’ll just have to wait.
Wallace spoke to Berman about the noose used as a garage pull, something he’s never seen in all the garages he’s been in his life.
“I have never seen a noose personally in my life,” said Wallace. “I’ve seen a lot of garage pulls. We’ve had a lot of garages growing up and racing out of. We simply had to tie a knot at the bottom of it to pull. And nowadays you press a button and the garage goes down.
“But it was, in fact, a noose as a garage pull.”
Sadly, because a noose was found in his garage stall, Wallace is now having his integrity called into question as social media trolls suspect he’s now the next Jussie Smollett, a former TV star who was accused of falsifying a hate crime.
“There’s no comparison there,” said Wallace.” [I was] simply listening to the facts that was delivered to me and the processes that were already being held. I was just an innocent bystander. But people won’t buy that and that’s ok. I know what’s true in my heart and in my mind. The people around me know that that’s the truth. I’ll lay my head down at night seeping really good knowing that I’m telling the truth.
“You’re always going to have people who are going to test you. I’ve learned from Day 1 of being where I’m at. Being on a pedestal.
“People see me as a hoax and a fake to try to push ratings and get followers. But what people don’t realize is I don’t need all that to be successful. I just need my family and a race car. A race car is where I get away.”
It’s clear that Wallace is not as happy as Phelps is about the fact that the noose had been there for months and not just days. Think about that. It’s been there since at least October and it’s a relief. It doesn’t sound like Wallace is totally buying it, something that became evident when he was asked what his message would be to NASCAR fans and after pausing for a beat brought up the new fans that are coming to NASCAR.
“There’s a lot of work left on the table,” he said. “[We’ll] walk hand-in-hand together and conquer the good fight we’re trying to fight.”