THE noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage before a 2020 NASCAR race was real and not a “hoax” concocted by the star, an FBI agent who investigated the incident has said.
Speaking in the upcoming documentary series RACE: Bubba Wallace, FBI agent Stanley Ruffin dispelled any speculation that the rope – which looked like a hangman’s noose – had been planted by Wallace or a member of his team.
“It wasn’t a hoax,” it was real, Ruffin said. “And Mr. Wallace had nothing to do with the placement of that noose.
“I’ll stick with that,” he added.
On June 21, 2020, Wallace was initially thought to have been the victim of a hate crime after a noose-like rope was found hanging from his stall at Alabama’s Talladega Speedway.
The discovery came at the height of a national racial toll following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.
It was Arbery’s death and the shocking video of him being shot in the street while jogging in a neighborhood near Brunswick that inspired Wallace to use his platform to demand change and advocate for change. equality, he reveals in RACE.
Shortly after watching the video, Wallace donned a Black Lives Matter t-shirt at the track before a race and successfully lobbied NASCAR to ban Confederate flags from flying at its events.
Wallace has received a flurry of backlash for advocating for the flag to be banned, with some fans saying it’s a crucial part of their Southern heritage and therefore of NASCAR, a sport with deep ties to South.
Two weeks after the flag ban was enacted, the noose was found inside Wallace’s temporary garage by one of his pit crew members.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps alerted Wallace to the noose, and the driver made a series of emotional phone calls to various family members, including his estranged father, who advised him to buy a gun from fire.
A media frenzy ensued after NASCAR released a hastily worded statement saying it was left “angry and outraged” by the “heinous act”.
Wallace also posted a statement on Twitter, writing, in part, that “the despicable act of racism and hate leaves me incredibly saddened.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps called for a full FBI investigation into the incident and within 24 hours 15 ground agents descended on Talladega Speedway to probe the origins of the noose.
The next day, before the race started at Talladega, the other 39 NASCAR drivers pushed Wallace’s #43 car to the front of the grid in a show of solidarity.
Dozens of Pit members also marched in procession behind them, reducing Wallace to tears.
However, within two days, FBI agents in Birmingham, Alabama had been able to determine that Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime as NASCAR had prematurely suggested.
Instead, the bureau discovered that the alleged noose was actually a door pull rope shaped like a noose that had been there since at least October 2019.
Both Wallace and Phelps expressed relief at the FBI’s findings, but argued that the rope had been fashioned into a noose – and that the symbolism alone is problematic.
The noose of the hanged man is linked to lynching in the United States and is considered a symbol of historical violence and racism against black Americans.
Speaking on Netflix’s upcoming documentary, Phelps said: “You can call it a noose-like pull-down – it’s a slipknot.
“The noose symbolism was the problem.”
Phelps said NASCAR has done a thorough sweep of every garage area in the 29 tracks it races at, a total of 1,684 garages.
During this investigation, they discovered that only 11 garages were using a knotted pull rope, and only one of them was tied with a noose – the one found in Wallace’s stall.
The noose was not in the garage until October 2019 race weekend, however, it was never determined who tied the rope the way it was or why it was done.
“What are the chances?” says Amanda Carter, Wallace’s fiancée, suspiciously, in RACE. “What are the chances that this weekend, when everything is so tense, that he gets that stall?”
The backlash to the FBI’s findings was swift, with Wallace’s already furious critics accusing him of staging the whole incident as part of an elaborate hoax.
The star’s manager told Netflix that Wallace and other members of his team were getting “death threats left and right.”
Then-President Donald Trump added fuel to the fire, accusing him in a tweet of orchestrating the whole incident to boost his career, although Wallace never found or even saw the slipknot.
“@BubbaWallace did he apologize to all those great NASCAR drivers and officials who came to his aid, stood by his side and were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out it was all just ‘Another Hoax? Decision Caused Lowest Ratings EVER!’ Trump wrote.
NASCAR has tightened security around Wallace in response to the slew of death threats.
Carter told Netflix that during the fallout, she grew increasingly worried for her safety and that of Wallace.
She said that every time she came home, she quietly swept every room, fearing that someone out to harm them had broken in.
Reflecting on the RACE incident, Phelps said he has no regrets about how he and NASCAR handled the incident, insisting he would do it again if need be.
RACE: Bubba Wallace is a six-episode series coming to Netflix on February 22.
The docuseries explores how the events of 2020 reshaped Wallace personally and professionally, and the pressure he faced during the 2021 season after signing with Michael Jordan’s racing team, 23XI Racing.
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