It certainly looks like a noose.
NASCAR released a photo Thursday of the rope that set off a firestorm, first assumed to be a racist symbol, then determined to be a misunderstanding. But while the rope may have been used to pull open a garage door, it was tied in such a way that it could understandably set off alarm bells.
The noose-looking door pull was found in the garage belonging to Bubba Wallace’s team Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. At first, it was thought to be a hate crime and an act of intimidation against the 26-year-old Wallace, NASCAR’s only black driver. Two weeks ago, Wallace led the charge for the sport to ban Confederate flags at all of its events and properties, wore an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt before an event and had driven with Black Lives Matter painted on the side of his car.
But following an FBI investigation, it was revealed to be a misunderstanding – it was a garage door pull rope – since video footage revealed it had been there since at least October of 2019.
So while it may not have been placed there specifically for Wallace, it was tied in such a way that Wallace’s team believed it was an intentional message.
“I’ve been racing since I was 9 years old; I’m 26 now, I’ll be 27 this year, and I’ve never seen a garage pull like that,” Wallace told ESPN on Wednesday. “It makes me want to drive over to my mom’s house where we used to race out of our garage and show a garage pull.”
NASCAR president Steve Phelps told reporters Thursday that a recent sweep of all 29 tracks where it races and 1,684 garage stalls found only 11 pull-down ropes tied with a knot. The only one found to be tied like a noose was this one. An investigation revealed that the noose was not tied at the start of the Oct. 2019 Talladega weekend, but it was there at the end.
Phelps said “in hindsight, I should have used the word alleged” when NASCAR first announced it found the noose.
“Anyone who would suggest this was a hoax, I find personally offensive. I don’t know how people think that way,” Phelps said. “Odds are someone saw it, and did not react negatively to it. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen in the future. We need to do better as an industry.”