Former ESPN "SportsCenter" anchor Jemele Hill said the noose left in the stall of driver Bubba Wallace — the only Black driver on NASCAR's top circuit — is a “disgusting reminder” of who the sport is for.
The commentary from the Atlantic contributing writer comes as the Justice Department announced Monday it was launching an investigation into the incident.
“As someone who has attended several NASCAR races, it’s hard for people of color to feel comfortable in these environments when you see the Confederate flag everywhere, when you just get this sense that you’re at something that you’re not welcome at,” Hill told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “As much as NASCAR may try to distance itself from that, it is a living, breathing part of their sport.”
Wallace has become an outspoken advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement and now drives a car emblazoned with that message. He was instrumental in getting NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag from its races.
Days after the only black driver in NASCAR’s top tier, Bubba Wallace, sported a “Black Lives Matter” message and celebrated the organization banning the Confederate flag, a noose was found in his garage stall https://t.co/sYUjDBWIVB— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 22, 2020
“This reminder is [a] very stunning, shocking, appalling, disgusting reminder of who, again, this sport is for,” added Hill. “I’m very curious to see how NASCAR handles this, because based[on] everything I’ve read … this had to be an inside job, because this garage was only open to essential personnel. So, somebody associated with NASCAR likely may have been the culprit.”
The Wallace incident came just weeks after the driver successfully called for the organization to ban displays of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events.
NASCAR also announced on Monday it has launched an investigation, calling the incident a “heinous act," while ESPN reported the FBI is also investigating.
Wallace, 26, tweeted Sunday that the "despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism.”
Also on Monday, NASCAR drivers and crew members joined in a show of solidarity to push Wallace's car to the front of the racing grid at Talladega superspeedway in Alabama.
Together pic.twitter.com/D4zW3jA5y5— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 22, 2020