A noose was found in Bubba Wallace's garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama on Sunday. NASCAR announced it is launching an investigation.
"Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team," the racing organization said in a statement. "We are angry and outraged and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all."
The 26-year-old racer, who is the only Black driver in NASCAR's top series, later took to Instagram to reflect on how the "despicable act of racism and hatred" left him "incredibly saddened," noting it served 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."
"Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry, including other drivers and team members in the garage," Wallace wrote. "Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming to everyone. Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate."
He then shared how his mother told him, "They are just trying to scare you."
"This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down," Wallace concluded. "I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in."
The discovery came just weeks after Wallace called for a ban of Confederate flags at the racetrack. NASCAR later announced Confederate flags are prohibited from the organization's events.
Ahead of Sunday's race, which was later postponed to Monday due to weather, a plane displaying a Confederate flag and the words "Defund NASCAR" flew over the tracks.
As the race's start time approached on Monday afternoon, NASCAR drivers and their pit crews stood in solidarity with Wallace by pushing his No. 43 car down the track to the starting grid as the national anthem played. The phrase #IStandWithBubba was painted on the field.
In footage of the moment shared by NASCAR, Wallace appeared overcome with emotion as he embraced his fellow competitors. He also snapped a selfie and captioned it, "Together."
After learning of the incident, several athletes expressed their support for Wallace on social media.
"Sickening! @BubbaWallace my brother! Know you don't stand alone!" LeBron James tweeted. "I'm right here with you as well as every other athlete. I just want to continue to say how proud I am of you for continuing to take a stand for change here in America and sports! @NASCAR I salute you as well!"
Dale Earnhardt Jr. also tweeted,"Hope Bubba wins it tomorrow." He later added, "I don't worry about our sport. I have confidence NASCAR's leadership will find who did this and continue pushing us in the right direction. I do worry about Bubba. I hope Bubba is feeling loved and supported. Keep sending him that love and support. He needs it now more than ever."
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Jay E. Town released a statement, as well.
"The U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of Alabama, FBI and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division are reviewing the situation surrounding the noose that was found in Bubba Wallace's garage to determine whether there are violations of federal law," the statement read. "Regardless of whether federal charges can be brought, this type of action has no place in our society."
(This story was originally published on Monday, June 22, 2020 at 6:13 a.m. PST)