It was a sight like I have never seen. All those NASCAR drivers and crew members lining up to push Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 Chevrolet to the front of the line at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
This is a story I have been following all week. It has changed along the way. You probably have heard about it by now. Someone on Bubba Wallace’s crew found what looked like a noose in the driver’s garage at Talladega over the weekend.
Flash forward. The rope that looked like a noose had been there for months. It was apparently used to open the garage door. The F.B.I. says Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime.
Bubba Wallace on Twitter thanked NASCAR and the F.B.I for investigating. “We’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been,” he said.
It’s been an interesting time for NASCAR. Bubba Wallace has been in the middle of it too. He’s the only African American competitor in the top flight Cup Series. As the George Floyd protests have played out, Wallace called on NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its racetracks. It did.
Then, someone on Bubba Wallace’s crew at Talladega found what they believed was a noose. That is what led to the incredible show of support from NASCAR. So many people walking with Bubba Wallace. He was moved to tears. Who wasn’t?
Was it a noose? Turns out, it probably wasn’t. That said, it sure looked like one. I’ve seen pictures of it. I can see how someone might think it was. And if you believe it was a noose, then you must think about the symbolism of it. Hangings. Lynchings.
That’s why that overwhelming show of support at Talladega meant so much. For a lone African American in a predominantly white sport, it was more than moving. It was important.
NASCAR has really stepped up in this difficult time in America. Called for an immediate investigation. For the record, I’m a fan. I’ve been to Daytona. You can’t imagine what it’s like to be there. To see, hear and feel those cars driving around that track.
We are all learning right now. Maybe one person would have never seen that rope as a noose. Someone on Bubba Wallace’s crew did. The conversation has started. It needs to continue. We can’t let the progress we have made so far end.
Bubba Wallace probably never thought he would become so important in 2020. He’s now bigger than his sport. That’s hard for any athlete. From what I’ve seen, Bubba Wallace is up to it.