The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)
The hate follows Wallace on his big day
TALLADEGA, Ala. — It’s been nearly 16 months since Bubba Wallace was waiting out a rainstorm in his motorhome in the Talladega Superspeedway infield when NASCAR informed its only fulltime Black driver that a noose had been found in his garage stall.
Wallace never saw the noose, never even stepped foot in the garage. It wasn’t Wallace who called in the FBI — NASCAR did that — and from what he’d been told, Wallace was led to believe he’d been the victim of a hate crime.
When the FBI later ruled that the noose had been fashioned to the end of a garage door pull during NASCAR’s visit to Talladega nine months earlier, making it mere coincidence that Wallace was assigned that stall, he was subjected to a barrage of online vitriol that spread to the grandstands at several
tracks in the aftermath.
Wallace is used to being booed by now, and on the biggest day of his professional career the trolls came for him again when he darted to the front of the field to win Monday’s rain-shortened, rescheduled race at Talladega.
It was rigged, many cried, saying NASCAR called the race only because it would benefit Wallace. That claim was one of the gentler barbs directed
at Wallace, the first Black driver since Wendell Scott in 1963 to win at the top level of the sport.
Not even in this pinnacle moment of his career could Wallace escape the doubters who somehow believe he cooked up the noose as a hoax in June 2020 to garner support during the nationwide racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd.
Wallace was not a victim of a hate crime, but the hate has followed him since he became vocal in matters of social justice and successfully called on NASCAR to ban the display of the Confederate flag at its events.
Denny Hamlin, a fellow driver and now Wallace’s boss as co-owner along with Michael Jordan of the 23XI Racing team, encouraged Wallace to get off social media for his own mental health.
“People just automatically dislike me because I hired Bubba Wallace,” said Hamlin, a first-year team owner also who scoffed at the notion the race was fixed.
“I spend way too much money and these teams spend too much money to fix it,” he said. “Any time there’s unique circumstances, it’s fixed. When a team is close to winning a football game, they fumble on the one yard line, it’s fixed. It’s just (criticism from) someone that’s having a bad day.”
Wallace said after Monday’s race he had followed Hamlin’s advice several months ago and stopped reading social media.