How much of a mystery could this be? After the discovery of a noose in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall in Talladega, NASCAR announced that they would kick the perpetrator out of racing for good once identified. One way or another, the league apparently feels that this potential hate crime must be an inside job:
NASCAR announced Sunday that a noose was found in the garage stall of Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, just weeks after the racing circuit’s only African American driver emblazoned a “Black Lives Matter” message across his car and successfully pushed the organization to ban displays of the Confederate flag.
NASCAR said in a statement that it launched an immediate investigation into the matter, noting that it is “angry and outraged” by the “heinous act.”
“[We] will do everything we can to identify the person responsible and eliminate them from the sport,” it said. “As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.”
Late last night, Wallace himself made his feelings known about the incident:
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 22, 2020
The presumption is that this is a reaction to Wallace’s success in banning Confederate iconography from NASCAR. Thanks to a long track record on hate crimes of late, one has to at least entertain the possibility of a hoax … but maybe only theoretically. Wallace’s campaign turned out to be unpopular with NASCAR fans, and someone might have thought that this kind of incident would quiet down criticism. However, this seems unlikely to be a Jussie Smollett type of incident involving Wallace himself, for the simple reason that Wallace had already won the point and had considerable support for it within NASCAR and his fellow racers. It’s not impossible that someone on Wallace’s team tried this kind of stunt, but it seems very unlikely. There’s simply too little benefit for it.
That leaves us with the anger over the ban on Confederate iconography, or — possibly and — Wallace’s status as the lone full-time black racer in NASCAR. That would leave thousands of potential suspects, including the fans who came to Talladega yesterday defiantly displaying Confederate flags. However, how many fans get access to NASCAR garage stalls? Presumably zero, as even a laissez-faire approach to security would still need to prevent people from wandering around cars that would be racing the next day and potentially tampering with them. The only people with access to the garage stalls should be NASCAR racers, their teams, and other NASCAR personnel, including security.
That’s why NASCAR’s taking this seriously, and hinting that the perp may be someone within the racing community. That’s a fair bet, at least for now, regardless of what the motive may have been.
Speaking of security, CBS’ Gayle King and Jericka Duncan bring up an obvious point: where is the surveillance video? Surely these facilities must have some video cameras posted for security purposes. NASCAR itself brings in hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and its teams get revenue in the eight-to-nine-figure range, too. The garage stalls where the equipment gets kept must have some sort of surveillance video, no? At least at its access points? They might also have a card-access system, or at least should, to prevent unauthorized entries.
If this is a mystery, it shouldn’t be a long-lived one. It won’t take Hercule Poirot to solve this whodunit if NASCAR took security at all seriously. Technologically, this is the 21st century, even if it’s still the 19th century in the minds of a few malevolent idiots.
Update: NASCAR has escalated this to the top rather quickly. They asked the FBI to take part in the investigation, which might crowd out the local sheriff:
Authorities said Monday that the FBI is investigating the discovery of a noose found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of Bubba Wallace and the governor of Alabama condemned the act against NASCAR’s only Black full-time driver. …
Talladega County Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore said NASCAR contacted the FBI, which was handling the investigation. The FBI field office in Birmingham did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press.
The Department of Justice has also gotten a team in place for the probe:
NEW: Federal authorities reviewing incident of noose found in garage stall of Black NASCAR driver: "Regardless of whether federal charges can be brought, this type of action has no place in our society." https://t.co/jM8pbhhNhZ pic.twitter.com/kBtAxOqMt0
— ABC News (@ABC) June 22, 2020
The local sheriff might not mind having the FBI take the lead on this case. It’ll be a headache no matter what the investigation finds. It does tend to reinforce just how seriously NASCAR feels about this incident, too, and how determined they are to get to the bottom of it.