NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace addressed the “Jussie Smollett” narrative surrounding the noose situation from Talladega Superspeedway in June.
Bubba Wallace knows how it looked when the apparent noose in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway turned out to be nothing more than a garage pull rope fashioned like a noose and that no hate crime had been committed despite NASCAR calling the situation a “heinous act” — and despite the fact that president Steve Phelps had stated that a hate crime was committed.
As the NASCAR world rallied around Wallace, who had driven a Black Lives Matter car less than two weeks prior and called for the sport to ban the Confederate Flag, he even called fans “simple-minded” for questioning what had happened.
After an FBI investigation, it was later determined that the rope had been there since at least the October race at the track in 2019.
Garage stalls are assigned based on the championship standings, and based on that, nobody could have predicted that it would be the #43 team in that stall this past June. The #21 team of Wood Brothers Racing had been assigned this particular stall in October of 2019.
While he never issued a formal apology and has, in fact, been quite unapologetic about the whole way he went about the situation, Wallace admitted afterward that the situation did indeed look bad.
And Wallace knows how many of his haters and critics have responded, despite his very clear stance that all lives matter.
He reads the posts and the replies on social media. He knows that most replies are generally positive.
But he also knows all about the comparisons to Jussie Smollett.
Recalling the matter for SportsCenter Presents 2020: Heroes, History and Hope, he addressed how he felt after finding out that no hate crime was committed.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all relief for this reason.
Here is what he had to say, according to ESPN.
“[I was like], thank God. Awesome, great news.
But as soon as they announced it, I went from Bubba Wallace, the somewhat favorite driver, to the worst-hated driver in the sport. And from there it was Jussie Smollett, a fake news hoax, all that stuff. That I planted it, [that] I was in the garage and I did it.”
Of course, none of that was true; he wouldn’t even have been allowed in the garage anyway. Phelps later admitted that he regrets not including the word “alleged” when the initial statement was released, stating matter-of-factly that a hate crime had been committed.
Wallace is set to move to 23XI Racing, the new team started by NBA legend Michael Jordan and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin, to drive the #23 Toyota in 2021 after spending the last three seasons with Richard Petty Motorsports driving the #43 Chevrolet.
The new season is scheduled to begin next month with the 63rd annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, February 14.