Bubba Wallace predicts cops won't pepper spray NASCAR fans protesting Confederate flag ban

Bubba Wallace, the only Black full-time NASCAR driver, predicted Friday that if fans protest over the circuit's ban on the Confederate flag, officers likely won't hit them with tear gas or rubber bullets like Black Lives Matter protesters.

“It’s their rights for peaceful protest, my man. It’s a part of it," Wallace said. "But you won’t see them inside the racetracks where we’re having a good time with the new fans that are purchasing their tickets, purchasing their favorite drivers’ apparel. You won’t see it flying in there.

”It’s exactly what you see on the flip side of everything going on and in cities as they peacefully protest," he continued. "But you won’t see cops pepper-spraying them and shooting them with rubber bullets, will you?"

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His comments come after NASCAR announced two weeks ago that the Confederate flag would be banned from its events, a move that sparked backlash from fans in the South who often display the symbol at races.

NASCAR's decision came in response to nationwide protests demanding an end to systemic racism and police brutality after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died in policy custody. The protests, which have gone on daily since Floyd's death and have been held in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., have been mostly peaceful despite some instances of violent clashes with police.

In many cases, video shows officers deploying tear gas, flashbangs, rubber bullets and other tools at protesters to disperse crowds, including instances in which protesters were peaceful. The use of those tools has been controversial, sparking some cities to ban the use of tear gas. 

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Wallace's comments Friday come as NASCAR fans have already expressed some frustration with the new rule change.  

On Sunday, a pro-Confederacy group flew a small plane with a Confederate flag and a "Defund NASCAR" sign over the Talladega Speedway in Alabama, where Wallace had previously found a noose in his assigned garage. The FBI and NASCAR later determined the noose was not part of a hate crime, but had been in the garage for months.

Still, the incident has sparked controversy and renewed questions of racism by fans of the sporting event.