The FBI finished their investigation into a noose that was found in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s race stall, but for the far side of the political spectrum, it will do little to quell the flames around matters of race.
On Tuesday, the lead investigators released a statement addressing the noose found in assigned stall for the 43 team at Talladega Superspeedway.
“After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed,” said the joint statement by U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr. Adding the “decision not to pursue federal charges is proper after reviewing all available facts and all applicable federal laws. We offer our thanks to NASCAR, Mr. Wallace, and everyone who cooperated with this investigation.”
The investigation found that the “noose found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019. Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week.”
NASCAR released its own statement confirming the FBI’s findings saying, “The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall. 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.”
As soon as the findings were released, the battle within the fractures of the political landscape jumped to the surface. Wallace, who is African-American, has been a flashpoint in the sport due to the Black Lives Matter uprising in the wake of the alleged murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police. NASCAR has since banned the confederate flag at all races and facilities.
The combination of it all has created a culture war. The outcome of the investigation into the noose has simply entrenched the sides with #NooseHoax trending on Twitter.
During a teleconference with the media in which he took no questions, NASCAR president Steve Phelps said the outcome of the investigation was “the best result we could hope for” adding that “it is fantastic to hear from the FBI, definitively, this is not a hate crime.”
In that, Phelps is correct. It would have been exceptionally damaging if someone inside NASCAR had done the act. Given NASCAR’s roots in the south, it would have perpetuated a view that no matter the policy change around the confederate flag, a racist culture is embedded within the highest ranks of NASCAR.
Conversely, the findings showed that 43 team did not plant the noose, and with it bringing to mind that Wallace may have been involved in a publicity stunt similar to that of African-American actor Jussie Smollett who alleged in January of 2019 that he had been assaulted by two white men in Chicago during the early morning hours.
“I want to be clear about the 43 team,” Phelps added. “The 43 team had nothing to do with this. The evidence is very clear that the noose that was in that garage had been in the garage previously.”
None of this seems to matter in the hyper-partisan world we now live in. For the far-right and the far-left, the whole issue of the noose and Bubba Wallace has entrenched views on race further.
Social media raged on Tuesday over the findings. Many claimed that the rope in the garage wasn’t even a noose, which photos clearly show to not be true.
Phelps acknowledged that, regardless of the findings that showed Wallace had not been the target of a hate crime, NASCAR was investigating why a noose was in the stall at all, and how it could have been there as long as it did.
On the other side of the political spectrum, those that see the findings as dubious have said that the fix was in from the beginning. That there’s no way the stall was randomly assigned. That there’s not a chance a noose could have existed in the garage for that long without being removed. For those on the far-left, the culture of a noose being tied to NASCAR gained extra momentum when it was reported that one was found in a tree on the grounds of Sonoma Raceway in Northern California.
Such is politics. Such is a divided nation.
What is clear is that there is a shift going on inside of NASCAR as they look to distance themselves from the racist elements that has been part of their past, and is showing to still alive in the present. Outwardly, nothing appears to have changed on the matter of growing diversity and denouncing the confederate flag given the outcome of the investigation.
“To be clear, we would do this again,” Phelps said. “The evidence we had, it was clear we needed to look into this.”