Bubba Wallace Did Nothing Wrong: 2020 Edition

It’s been yet another crazy chapter in the stranger than fiction novel known as the year 2020. As the complications of a virus threaten to end life as we know it, and the issues of racial injustice continue to test the will of every American, NASCAR has been a major player at every turn. After the monumental decision to officially ban the use of the “Confederate Flag” by patrons on track property, tensions have run high between fans, members of the media, and even some of the drivers themselves. Going into the rescheduled June Talladega race weekend, most seasoned fans could have seen the narrative promoted by certain members of the old guard. So called former fans, swearing off the sport forever patrolled the outside of the track sporting the rebel flag while an airplane flying the flag was flown over the raceway before Sunday’s scheduled green flag.

Worse still, a southern summer rainstorm halted the planned 500 miler before it could even get started, and a lengthy rain delay followed by a postponement to Monday hampered the race day mood still further. Sunday night, news broke that a noose had been found in the garage stall being used by Bubba Wallace’s number 43 car, owned by NASCAR royalty Richard Petty. Details were scarce, but the notion that a symbol of hatred and violence rightfully frightened and angered most everyone that read the late Sunday reports. The response Monday was one of unity as drivers, media members, and the governing body all promised to support Bubba Wallace and #iStandWithBubba was quickly trending on social media. Even King Richard himself, who had stayed away from the track due to the pandemic returned to take part in the opening ceremonies to, as he put it, “hug his driver.”

In the background beginning Sunday, investigations as to the noose incident were handed to the FBI, making information even more scarce to a news hungry audience. After a great Cup series race Monday evening which included Bubba Wallace leading a lap and in contention for the win, all of NASCAR waited with varied levels of patience for information on the investigation. Tuesday morning and afternoon were a cavalcade of hot takes featuring homespun analysis from everything to a rouge employee, a fellow driver, and of course the notion that Bubba Wallace was somehow responsible himself. Late Tuesday afternoon the investigation results were announced, and it was determined that no hate crime was committed. Moreover, the noose was found to be part of the “pull rope” for opening and closing the garage in the stall, something that was present in 2019 when the Wood Brothers #21 was assigned that same garage stall in Talladega. The knee jerk reaction was one of embarrassment, as it seemed such an unlikely misunderstanding to happen. But in this case, the reactions all around say more than the incident itself.

Before digging into the opinions, it’s important to map out the facts. First and most important: Bubba Wallace never claimed to have seen the noose, and did not file the complaint to NASCAR or the FBI. Second, the pull rope in that stall is the only one fashioned in such a way that could resemble a noose to an observer, most likely due to a repair job or re-tie at some point. In other words, the other stalls in the garage did not have this same style pull rope. Third, a misunderstanding is not the same as a hoax. Upset that this situation ended up where it did? Yeah, me too. Maybe without such a fever pitch and angry Confederate Flag sympathizers we could have figured this out more rationally, but we’re still missing the point. There is a big difference between a mistake and an act of fraud, but to some people you’d think they were the same thing.

Invariably, the reactions on social media have been filled to the brim with self righteous individuals taking some sort of victory lap feeling vindicated that a hate crime wasn’t committed. It’s not enough to merely appreciate the absence of a hateful act, but it’s also required to put blame on so called “agitators” creating a fraudulent claim to shake up tensions and get attention. Such opinions are meritless, and say more about the problems of racism than anything that’s happened (or not happened) this week. Read between the lines. To a lot of the “all lives matter” crowd Bubba Wallace has slipped away from being ONE OF THE GOOD ONES and has dared to make himself uppity as to speak for himself and share opinions with a broadening audience. That bullshit about him throwing water at Alex Bowman last year is even making the rounds again…as that would somehow cultivate a character flaw to stage a fucking hate crime. Any mistake, embarrassment, and/or misunderstanding has nothing to do with Bubba Wallace. Whether it’s on NASCAR, the observer(s), or any initial investigation, there is no reasonable blame to put on Bubba himself. That’s going to hurt some people reading this, but it’s an inconvenient truth to your bullshit narrative. Everyone taking that victory lap right now, they are the true frauds. In a month where it looked like NASCAR could fall apart, it’s been brought closer together, and no amount of disgusting #bubbasmollett tweets are going to change that. Not a plant, not a setup, and thankfully not a hate crime. Best of all, this has proved NASCAR unity, and made a lot of bad people show their ass. This is not a win for the needless skeptics. Sorry, you still lost. Bubba Wallace, NASCAR, it’s fans…we’re all here to stay, and it’s just gotten that much stronger. See you at Pocono.

#iStandWithBubba

Follow Matt on Twitter for more NASCAR content and clever pop culture references.

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