- A plane toting a Confederate flag and a “defund NASCAR” banner flew over the track at the Talladega Superspeedway Sunday afternoon.
- The incident and others like it outside the track in Lincoln, Alabama, presumably come in response to NASCAR’s recent ban of Confederate flags at its events.
- Hours later, a noose was found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace – the only Black driver currently competing in NASCAR’s Cup Series.
- NASCAR released a statement Sunday night condemning hatred and reiterating that “there is no place for racism in NASCAR.”
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NASCAR is ready to separate itself from the Confederacy and the racism that comes with it.
But some of its fans are not as quick to disavow relics of America’s original sin.
Prior to the GEICO 500 – which was initially scheduled for Sunday afternoon but was pushed back a day due to inclement weather – a plane toting a Confederate flag and a “defund NASCAR” banner flew over the track at the Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama.
The incident presumably comes in response to NASCAR’s recent ban of Confederate flags at its events. Earlier this month, the association – which has deep Southern roots and a strong base of support in the region – said in a statement that the presence of the flag “runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors, and our industry.”
Sunday’s aerial display wasn’t the only act of protest of that kind. Others gathered outside of the venue brandishing Confederate flags and memorabilia of their own to express their discontent with NASCAR’s decision.
“People are disappointed that NASCAR has taken that stance,”Ed Sugg – a Helena, Alabama, native who has long sold merchandise at NASCAR races – told ESPN. “[The flag has] been around for as long as all of us have been. I don’t think anybody really connects it to any kind of racism or anything. It’s just a Southern thing. It’s transparent. It’s just a heritage thing.”
NASCAR has not clearly outlined a plan to enforce its Confederate flag ban, and there’s little the association can do to dissuade individuals from displaying the symbol outside of its facilities. There is no restriction on individuals flying the Confederate flag in the state of Alabama – where the rebel flag flew over the capitol dome until 1993. Even if the individual who flew the flag over Talladega Sunday was identified, they would likely face little to no repercussions.
Even so, the association appears committed to its new stance – as evidenced by its response to an even more damning act of racism that occurred at the Superspeedway later Sunday evening. Hours after the plane flew over Talladega, NASCAR announced a noose had been found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace – the lone Black driver currently competing in the Cup Series.
Following the discovery, NASCAR issued a statement condemning the act of hatred and reiterating that “there is no place for racism in NASCAR.”
“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team,” NASCAR wrote in its statement Sunday night. “We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. 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 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,” the organisation added.
NASCAR statement: A noose was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall today at Talladega.
NASCAR is investigating. pic.twitter.com/dGYFYryVES
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) June 22, 2020
In his own statement, Wallace said Sunday’s act of hatred “serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society.” Wallace has been vocal in his support for the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a former Minneapolis police officer last month. The 26-year-old driver previously called on NASCAR to eradicate the display of Confederate flags at its events and drove a car adorned with #BlackLivesMatter on the side at the 2020 Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville.
Wallace’s activism has been largely met with encouragement. Many individuals – from fellow athletes to casual sports fans – have shown their support for Wallace on the track after praising him for using his platform to speak out. And the sports world – including LeBron James and Wallace’s fellow NASCAR drivers – has rallied around Wallace in light of Sunday’s reprehensible display of racism.
The GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway begins at 3 p.m. Monday on FOX. Drivers competing in the Cup Series event are expected to stand alongside Wallace and his car while the national anthem plays prior to the race.
- Read more:
- A noose was found in the stall of a Black NASCAR driver – just hours after Confederate flags flew over the track at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama
- NASCAR bans the Confederate flag from all races in their latest move to support racial equality and social justice
- NASCAR made historic strides by running a ‘Black Lives Matter’ car and banning the Confederate flag – but where it goes from here is the true test
- NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, will drive a car with a special Black Lives Matter paint scheme during the Martinsville race
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