NASCAR fans breathed a collective sigh of relief two weeks ago when the sport singlehandedly stopped racism dead in its tracks by banning Confederate flags from flying at its events. Cockburn was thus stunned when news spread that a rebel retaliated against the ban by placing a noose in the garage of Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only black driver.
Except, according to an FBI investigation, that’s not what happened. Rather, the ‘noose’ in question was actually a garage door pull that had been at Talladega since October 2019 — well before Wallace was ever assigned that garage bay.
People familiar with these hate hoaxes probably felt their ears prick up at the mention of a ‘noose’. Michigan State University officials investigated an alleged ‘noose’ in a dormitory in 2017 only to discover it was just a stray shoelace. The same year, students at the University of Maryland demanded the school investigate a random piece of plastic wrap they claimed was deliberately fashioned into a noose. The most famous example, of course, is when Empire actor Jussie Smollett called the police after claiming two white men attacked him outside of a Subway, pouring a chemical substance on him, fashioning a noose around his neck, and declaring that he was in ‘MAGA country’. Smollett was still wearing the noose like a necklace when police arrived at his apartment. Authorities later claimed Smollett staged the attack for attention with the paid help of two Nigerian brothers. Anyone who questions the victim of an alleged hate crime, no matter how insane that person’s story, is immediately considered a racist.
Cockburn was initially reticent to compare Wallace to Smollett. Wallace was not the one who initially found the ‘noose’, and was merely reacting to what his team told him. He did not manufacture the incident himself. But the fanfare that followed, despite an ongoing investigation that had yet to find evidence of a hate crime, wilted any sympathy. Drivers and team members pushed Wallace’s car to the front of the field ahead of Monday’s race at Talladega. The infield grass was painted with #IStandWithBubba. It was an outlandish show of ‘solidarity’ that only took place because just waiting for an investigation to conclude before commenting on an alleged hate crime would have earned NASCAR allegations of racism.
Then, even after the FBI concluded that the ‘noose’ was anything but, Wallace doubled down on his alleged victimhood. In a Tuesday night appearance with CNN’s Don Lemon, Wallace asserted, ‘From the evidence that we have…it’s a straight-up noose’. Never mind the 15 — yes, 15! — FBI special agents who investigated the incident. Wallace, despite never having seen the rope in person, believes it’s a noose, and therefore it’s a noose.
Wallace apparently got a taste of the fame that comes with being a professional victim and thought it was much sweeter than letting his racing do the talking. He finished 14th at Talladega.