- ESPN commentator Bomani Jones spoke with Will Cain on the latter’s ESPN Radio show about the impact of NASCAR’s and Bubba Wallace’s noose incident on race relations in America.
- Cain had previously said on “First Take” that the FBI’s finding that the noose was a garage pulley and not a hate crime would be ‘an impediment to race relations’ and set the anti-racism movement back.
- Jones countered that those touting Confederate flags outside the Talladega Superspeedway prior to Monday’s GEICO 500 “are far bigger impediments” to race relations in America.
- Fans took to social media to commend Jones for “cooking” Cain before the 45-year-old Texas native parts ways with ESPN for a new gig as a political commentator for Fox News.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
ESPN commentator Bomani Jones decided to “break a rule” he imposed on himself to speak with Will Cain on his ESPN Radio show, “The Will Cain Show.”
It served as a remarkable farewell from the network for Cain, who is parting ways with ESPN for a new gig as a political commentator for Fox News.
In his final stint on ESPN’s “First Take,” Cain issued a scathing rebuke of NASCAR. The premier association in stock racing, alongside the FBI, investigated a noose that was found in the garage stall of its sole Black driver, Bubba Wallace, on Sunday prior to the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. After the noose was found to be a garage pulley and not a hate crime directed at Wallace, Cain argued that NASCAR’s “rush to judgment” would “undercut improvement in race relations.”
“I think we in the media and NASCAR were ignorant as to the cost when you do not pursue the truth,” Cain said. “We are not prioritising our simple job which is to absolutely seek and hopefully find the truth. NASCAR immediately rushed to judgment. Immediately said it was a noose. Immediately said it was a heinous act of racism. In the media, in society, we have to be calm enough, rational enough, to say: ‘Could it be true? Could it be false? Could it be a misunderstanding?’ And we didn’t, and because of that, we undercut our credibility.”
“And also, I believe we undercut improvement in race relations,” Cain added. “I really believe that. We are going to take a step back because we have sowed distrust, we have sowed division, and it will come back as a backlash on NASCAR and, unfortunately, on Bubba Wallace as well.”
"I cannot give NASCAR any credit. I think NASCAR deserves a massive indictment."@willcain believes NASCAR and the media reacted too quickly to reports of a noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall. pic.twitter.com/iQ0O8RDMKo
— First Take (@FirstTake) June 24, 2020
Jones immediately took issue with his colleague’s stance on the issue, tweeting a link to the clip and with the note that Cain is fighting for “the benefit of the doubt” which Jones says is “a recurring theme.”
what's will fighting for here? the benefit of the doubt.
it's a recurring theme. https://t.co/Pn89LnIsYW
— bomani (@bomani_jones) June 24, 2020
Later in the day, Jones made his first – and last – appearance on “The Will Cain Show.”
Jones opened by asking Cain what, in his estimation, is the biggest impediment to race relations in America. Cain responded that he sees people’s struggles with “seeing each other as individuals” as the biggest roadblock.
“We are inherently tribal and our job is to overcome those tribes and see each other as individuals,” Cain said. “I believe when we do this, it will make it harder for people to look inward and see ‘Do I fail? Am I failing in my ability to look at others as individuals?’ Instead, it will continually be this external-focused thing. ‘Is that racist? Is this racist? Is that improvement? Is this not improvement?'”
“And it will undercut not just anybody’s external indictments, it will also undercut anybody’s willingness to look inward,” he added.
But when Jones followed up by questioning how Cain would have responded to that same question back in 1865 – the year slavery was legally abolished in the United States – Cain was quick to respond that “the more immediate biggest impediment at that point would have been the institution of slavery.”
That’s when Jones turned up the heat.
“Right, but the issue is, really, the impediment to racism is white people not treating black people as being of equal levels of humanity,” Jones said. “Like, that’s the answer for all of the time.”
“The reason I wanted to call in is it’s very important to note this, especially considering the power dynamic,” he added. “Me viewing you, for example, through the lens of just being a part of a group and not an individual doesn’t have any negative effect on your life. You viewing others the other way actually does have a negative effect on their lives. Like, it’s not the same thing. We can’t do the ‘both sides and human beings are just like this’ because there’s been a level of subjugation of people in this country that is uncommon and is not something that we can look at all across the world and thereby ascribe all this necessarily as tribalism.”
He further simplified this argument in a tweet after the appearance:
and so you know, as i said on the segment, i went on because saying that what happened in talladega would be "an impediment to race relations" completely ignores the problem in the first place: racism.
— bomani (@bomani_jones) June 24, 2020
Jones then applied that line of reasoning to Cain’s comments about NASCAR and the noose found in Wallace’s stall, and affirmed that he disagreed with Cain’s estimation that the investigation’s conclusions would “be an impediment to race relations.” Instead, he argued that those touting Confederate flags outside the Talladega Superspeedway prior to Monday’s GEICO 500 “are far bigger impediments” to race relations in America.
“You seem more bothered by the fact that somebody got this wrong than you were with this display of defiance that took place before the race with the racists trying to assert that NASCAR is theirs when NASCAR is like ‘Yo, can you please chill out? That’s not what we want to do no more,'” Jones said.
As far as NASCAR’s and the media’s “rush to judgment” – as Cain characterised the initial reaction – Jones argued that, given the full context and scope of the situation, reaching that conclusion was entirely reasonable.
“White folks gotta live with the fact that you’re asking for a benefit of the doubt that is not supported by the historical record,” Jones said.
Cain concluded his case by explaining that he thinks there are “persuadable people” who are alienated from progessive movements “when you take a moment like this and you show such cavalier disregard for the truth.”
“If those people can be dissuaded that easily by that one mistake, they’re not nearly as persuadable as you’re giving them credit for being,” Jones rebutted. “Which is you giving them the benefit of the doubt.”
Check out the full interview below:
Fans flocked to Twitter to commend Jones for “cooking” Cain on his own show.
The Twittersphere was quick to declare victory for Jones after the 13-minute interview, with former ESPN commentator Jemele Hill even going as far as to call him a hero.
Bomani cooking Will Cain something serious right now.
— Justin Tinsley (@JustinTinsley) June 24, 2020
I've said this time and time again. But @bomani_jones is one of the smartest people on television. Not sports television. But television period.
Listen to today's conversation he had with Will Cain.
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) June 25, 2020
Bomani destroyed this man on his last day at ESPN. You love to see it. This is worth the listen. https://t.co/wYQnc1oPBj
— Ben Felix (@ThunderCatFelix) June 24, 2020
A replay of what Bomani Jones just did to Will Cain on his own show pic.twitter.com/ntsGXhNDtI
— BROTHER (@BrotherHQ) June 24, 2020
How Will Cain producers was looking at him while bomani was cooking him up lol pic.twitter.com/4BDRf6Jmjw
— CyclopsIsBetterThanWolverine (@Krakoan4Life) June 24, 2020
Rankings of who at ESPN I would least want to be in an on-air debate with:
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 25, 2020
Bomani’s nuance and sense of history when he debates is A1. Always has been when it comes to issues of race. He’s incredible
— Chris Herring (@Herring_NBA) June 25, 2020
Just listened to the entire convo between Bomani and Will Cain. Bo was the hero we both deserve and need.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) June 25, 2020
Newly-released photos of the noose found in Wallace’s garage stall further underscore Jones’ argument.
On Thursday, NASCAR published a photo of the noose found hanging in the garage stall at the Talladega Superspeedway. While the association – and the FBI – concluded that the noose was not a hate crime against Wallace, the image makes clear why Wallace’s team and the racing association investigated the finding for potential of a hate crime.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) June 25, 2020
Not only is Wallace the lone Black driver currently competing in the Cup Series, but the 26 year old was instrumental in NASCAR’s recent decision to ban the Confederate flag from all of its events. As Insider’s Tyler Lauletta writes, “given the response by some in the racing community to the ban, the idea that someone would potentially want to commit a threatening, racist act against Wallace was not unimaginable.”
In hindsight, Cain’s characterization of NASCAR’s initial response as a “rush to judgment” was clearly off base. Even if the noose was not intended as a hate crime against Wallace, the driver’s estimation that “it’s a straight-up noose,” as he told CNN’s Don Lemon Tuesday, was proven entirely correct.
“The image that I have seen of what was hanging in my garage is not a garage pull,” Wallace said. “I’ve been racing all my life. We’ve raced out of hundreds of garages that never had garage pulls like that.”
It’s no surprise that he hasn’t. Even though NASCAR checked 1,684 other garages, Bubba Wallace’s was the only one found to have a rope tied like a noose. As a result, the association and the FBI have both released statements in which they continue to refer to the garage pulley as a noose.
After seeing that photo, Cain cannot reasonably argue that whomever tied it deserves the benefit of the doubt that Jones correctly claims “is not supported by the historical record.” Either they knew the history and symbolism behind what they were doing and tied the noose with the intention to express a hatred of Black people, or they didn’t know the history and symbolism behind what they were doing and abdicated on their obligation to educate themself effectively.
Our society does not solely dole out punishments, or draw conclusions, on the basis of intent. In crimes like manslaughter, the final outcome takes precedence over intention. In otherwords, an individual does not have to intend to kill in order to be found guilty of manslaughter. The same logic applies in this instance. Whether or not the person who tied the noose intended it as a hate crime, they still created a symbol of animus towards Black people like Wallace.
Cain no longer has grounds to claim that NASCAR and the media showed “such cavalier disregard for the truth” and thereby prompted “persuadable people [to] stop looking inward.” It’s not NASCAR’s or the media’s responsibility to qualify that whoever tied the noose didn’t mean to scare Wallace. The noose – which symbolises America’s long history of lynching Black people – still created a situation that Wallace described as “just short of pure hell.”
Thursday’s revelations perfectly support Jones’ argument that those “persuadable people” don’t deserve “the benefit of the doubt” Cain offered them. As Fusion TV’s Miriti Murungi so eloquently tweeted, “If people need you to pitch a perfect game to see injustice, they don’t want to see it.”
When Bomani said to Will Cain, "If those people can be dissuaded that easily by that one mistake, they're not nearly as persuadable as you're giving them credit for being," that was the game. If people need you to pitch a perfect game to see injustice, they don't want to see it.
— Miriti Murungi (@NutmegRadio) June 25, 2020
- Read more:
- ‘Can you afford this car?’: NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace says he has endured racism at the hands of the police
- Bubba Wallace says he has evidence that a ‘straight-up noose’ was found in his garage, after an investigation found the rope was a door pull in the shape of a noose
- A second noose was found at a NASCAR track, adding more controversy to the association’s reckoning with racism
- NASCAR drivers staged a beautiful display of support for Bubba Wallace – NASCAR’s only Black driver – pushing his car and standing with him during the national anthem after a noose was found in his garage stall
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