NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace appeared on Don Lemon’s CNN show on June 23, the same day the FBI determined he was not a victim of a hate crime. NASCAR officials said they found a noose hanging from his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama on June 21.
Lemon’s show was the first time Wallace spoke out since the FBI determined the noose had been hanging in the garage since last fall.
“I’m pissed. I’m mad because people were trying to test my character and the person I am,” Wallace told Lemon. “They’re not stealing that from me but they’re trying to test that.”
When Lemon asked if he was reading comments on social media, the driver said, “I’m trying hard not to. After tonight I’ll turn my phone off.” Wallace plans to do more interviews tomorrow, but said, “My side needs to be heard.”
“The image that I have and I have seen of what was hanging in my garage is not a garage pull,” says NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace.
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) June 24, 2020
Wallace Didn’t Find the Noose
Wallace recalled hearing about the noose being found in his garage. The information was relayed to him by NASCAR President Steve Phelps, who had tears in his eyes and tears rolling down his face. Phelps said a hate crime was committed and Wallace was afraid for his family. “I was taken back,” he said.
“I never seen the noose. I never reported it,” Wallace said.
As far as the people who are waiting for Wallace to fail, he said, “That only fuels the competitive drive in me.” He’s looking forward to getting back on the racing track to “showcase what I can do.”
“You won’t break me,” he said. “You won’t tear me down.”
Wallace said the rope found in his garage wasn’t a garage pull that he had ever seen before. “From the evidence that we have–that I have–it’s a straight-up noose. The FBI stated that it was a noose. NASCAR said that it was a noose,” he said. “This isn’t something that can be done within a second of just tying a knot… this is something that took time.”
As far as his colleagues at NASCAR, Wallace didn’t feel like he was alone. He felt supported by the racing community. “Within their hearts, they know it’s something that they stand for,” he said, referencing the drivers who rallied around him on June 22 at the track.
Wallace finished the interview by saying, “I’m pissed, but I’m ready to go on.”
Wallace Was Assigned to the Garage Last Week
In their statement on June 23, the FBI revealed the noose was a “garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose” that had been there since last year.
The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week. 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. 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 said they were relieved at the FBI’s findings. “We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba,” they said. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”
Hours before the FBI’s announcement was made, Wallace had appeared on The View, where he responded to critics of the situation. “People are entitled to their own opinion to make them feel good or help them sleep at night,” he said. “Simpleminded people like that, the ones who are afraid of change, they use everything in their power to defend what they stand for.”
There is only 1 driver from an African American background at the top level of our sport..I am the 1. You're not gonna stop hearing about "the black driver" for years. Embrace it, accept it and enjoy the journey..
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) November 8, 2017
As noted by Deadline, some claimed the noose was placed in Wallace’s garage to gain support for the ban of the Confederate flag in NASCAR, a ban that was pushed by Wallace–the only black driver in the racing company.