Bubba Wallace Says Noose Incident a 'Painful Reminder' of Racism in America

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace said he was "incredibly saddened" after a noose was found hanging in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama, on Sunday afternoon.

The only black driver in NASCAR, Wallace has been calling for change over the last few weeks, successfully pushing for the organization to ban the Confederate flag from its racetrack and support the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Sunday, however, he was confronted by what he described as "a painful reminder" of the distance society still has to cover to eradicate racism.

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"Today's despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism," Wallace wrote on Twitter.

"Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry, including other drivers and team members in the garage.

"Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone."

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Wallace, who drives the No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty's team, went to on to add the abhorrent act would not deter him from continuing to campaign against racism.

"Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate," he continued.

"As my mother told me today, 'they are just trying to scare you.' This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in."

Fellow NASCAR drivers Tyler Reddick, Michael Waltrip and Michael McDowell immediately offered their support for Wallace on Twitter.

"God help us," McDowell tweeted.

"The level of evil it takes to do something like this is disgusting. This is enraging and heartbreaking all at the same time."

Former NASCAR great and current NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr., meanwhile, expressed his hopes to see Wallace winning at Talladega on Monday.

Support for Wallace wasn't confined to NASCAR as LeBron James praised the 26-year-old's protests.

"Know you don't stand alone! I'm right here with you as well as every other athlete. I just want to continue to say how proud I am of you for continuing to take a stand for change here in America and sports!

According to Marty Smith of ESPN, Wallace never saw the noose, which was spotted by a team member, who subsequently reported it to race organizers.

In a strongly-worded statement issued shortly after the race was postponed because of bad weather, NASCAR said it was "angry and outraged" by the incident and announced it had launched an investigation.

"Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team. We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act," NASCAR said.

"We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport."

As widespread protests against racism erupted across the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, NASCAR has been among the sports forced to re-examine its relationship with Confederate symbols.

The organization had banned "the use of the Confederate flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity" five years ago and on June 10 it moved to prohibit flans from displaying the flag at its racetracks altogether.

"The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry," it said in a statement.

"Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties."

Sunday, however, was a sobering reminder of the opposition the organization faces for the changes to be accepted. Prior the noose being found in Wallace's garage, a small plane carrying a large Confederate flag with the message "Defund NASCAR" had flown above the Talladega Superspeedway.

Bubba Wallace, NASCAR
Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on June 14 in Homestead, Florida. Chris Graythen/Getty
Bubba Wallace Says Noose Incident a 'Painful Reminder' of Racism in America | Sports