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23 Jun, 2020 21:43

Fake noose: FBI says NASCAR ‘hate crime’ was just pull rope on Bubba Wallace’s garage door

Fake noose: FBI says NASCAR ‘hate crime’ was just pull rope on Bubba Wallace’s garage door

The “noose” in the garage assigned to African-American NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace in Talladega turned out to be a pull rope for the door that was there before, and not a hate crime, the FBI has confirmed.

“After a thorough review of the facts and evidence surrounding this event, we have concluded that no federal crime was committed,” FBI Special Agent Johnnie Sharp Jr. and US attorney Jay E. Town said in a statement on Tuesday.

Fifteen FBI agents were involved in the investigation, and established that the “noose” had been there since at least October 2019, when the stall was assigned to another team – and was therefore not fashioned as a hateful threat to the African-American driver.

One of Wallace’s team members claimed to have discovered a noose in their garage stall at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama on Sunday. NASCAR quickly called for a hate crime investigation, interpreting the rope as an intent to invoke lynching.

Wallace himself said he was “incredibly saddened” by the “despicable act of racism and hatred,” lamenting the incident as proof that the US was still struggling to overcome racism, but vowed that he would “never back down” and continue to stand against bigotry.

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The incident came just days after Wallace had successfully pressured NASCAR into banning the Confederate flag from all of its events and venues, and raced in a Black Lives Matter-themed car to show his support for the movement. This led many journalists to speculate that the “noose” may have been a retaliatory act aimed at intimidating the driver.

NASCAR quickly lined up behind Wallace, while other drivers circled his car and escorted him to the front of the line in Sunday’s race.

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While some have compared the situation with the infamous “noose hoax” by actor Jussie Smollett, reporters covering NASCAR have pushed back on the claim, saying that Wallace himself had never seen the “noose” but was reacting to what he was told.

In February 2019, Smollett claimed he had been attacked by two white men in a racist, homophobic attack in Chicago, who put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him. Police later showed evidence that he had paid two men of African descent to stage the attack and sought to use the hoax for publicity.

Earlier this month, authorities in California denounced “nooses” spotted on trees in a public park, even after an African immigrant explained they were rope swings put up by the neighbors for children to play with. The Talladega incident turned out to be a similar misunderstanding, only with far more prominent media coverage.

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