NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace appeared Tuesday night on CNN to respond to the FBI’s conclusion that he was not the target of a racist hate crime, saying he was “pissed” that people are doubting his character and integrity.
Days after NASCAR announced that a noose was found hanging in the garage of Wallace, the league’s only Black racer who has recently been outspoken on racial justice issues, the FBI determined that “that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall.”
“We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps said in a statement. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”
Wallace, who successfully pushed NASCAR to ban Confederate flags from its events, immediately found himself accused of peddling a fake hate crime on social media, with many comparing him and the incident to Jussie Smollett.
Asked by CNN anchor Don Lemon how he felt about the situation, Wallace tersely replied: “I’m pissed!”
“I’m mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am,” he added. “And my integrity. They’re not stealing that from me but trying to test that. And as a person that doesn’t need the fame or the hype or the media, I could care less.”
Wallace went on to describe the meeting he first had with Phelps on Sunday night when a member of his racing crew first discovered the rope in the garage stall. The NASCAR president, Wallace said, had “tears rolling down his face” over the incident, believing it was a hate crime.
Wallace reiterated that he hadn’t initially seen the noose and wasn’t involved in reporting it to NASCAR.
“I never seen the noose,” he said. “I never reported it. I was going to dinner.”
Lemon tried to reassure the driver that “fair-minded people” are not accusing him of doing anything wrong, telling him to ignore the “knuckleheads” on social media. Wallace expressed his appreciation, saying that “none of the allegations of this being a hoax will break me or tear me down.”
Asked whether it’s typical for ropes like that to be hanging in racing garages, Wallace said he’s been in racing all his life and he’s never seen a garage pull like that in other stalls.
“It’s a straight up noose,” he said. “The FBI has stated it was a noose. Over and over again. NASCAR leadership has stated it was a noose. I can confirm that. I actually got evidence of what was hanging in my garage, over my car, around my pit crew guys, to confirm it was a noose. And never seen anything like it.”
After Lemon pressed him on whether he still believed it was meant as a message for him, the NASCAR star once again explained “it was a noose” before noting he wasn’t the intended target.
“Whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose,” he declared. “So it wasn’t directed to me. Somebody tied a noose. That’s what I’m saying. It is a noose.”