Here’s some free advice for NASCAR:
Find the person who placed a noose inside driver Bubba Wallace’s garage. Release the name of the person. Permanently ban the person. Make public all the evidence that shows the guilt of the offending party.
Handle this controversy with complete transparency.
Anything short of that and the alleged racial incident that catapulted NASCAR, the Geico Talladega 500 and Bubba Wallace to the top of the national news cycle will turn into yet another polarizing and divisive issue separating sports fans.
It could also turn into something worse. Monday morning all across social media the incident was being analogized to actor Jussie Smollett’s fake hate crime in Chicago. I don’t buy that. I don’t believe Bubba Wallace would participate in staging a hate crime. He didn’t find the noose, a member of his race team did.
As of this moment, I’m not sure what to make of the noose NASCAR says was left in Bubba’s garage. I’d like to see it. I’d like to know the name of the person who found it and where it was placed. I’d like to know why NASCAR announced its finding of the noose only a few hours after being informed of its discovery.
The sequence of events seems a bit odd for most major corporations. Given the level of security and cameras at a NASCAR race, the need for proper credentials to reach the garage area and the extra-tight restriction in place because of the Covid pandemic, more than likely the person who planted the noose works within NASCAR.
If I were in charge of NASCAR, my initial instincts would be to identify and question the perpetrator and then inform the media of what happened. As the head of a major corporation, my instincts would be to protect the corporation, protect Bubba Wallace, protect the investigation of the incident and then inform the public.
NASCAR skipped all the way ahead to informing the public within just two or three hours of learning of the incident. Why?
I don’t see how that helps the investigation or protects Bubba Wallace. It did make NASCAR and the Talladega 500 more interesting. It put NASCAR at the top of the news cycle. It created a compelling storyline that NASCAR and FOX Sports leaned into Monday afternoon during the broadcast of the race.
NASCAR drivers and crew members pushed Bubba’s 43 car to the starting grid. Each driver hugged Bubba before the race. Bubba took a selfie with everyone standing behind him.
All these scenes were celebrated across social media. People who had never uttered or tweeted Bubba Wallace’s name before Sunday night were all posting comments about what a transcendent moment this was for NASCAR.
Bubba Wallace was the new Juneteenth, the longstanding Texas holiday that last week became the newest way to signal your support of black equality.
NASCAR owes us all a transparent explanation of these events. This noose incident cannot go unsolved and become a cold case. This can’t be a re-enactment of LeBron James’ Brentwood garage door. Remember that?
While playing basketball in Cleveland, LeBron informed the world that someone spray-painted the N-word on the gate of his California mansion. The public never saw the graffiti. Neither did the police. LeBron’s staff painted over the slur before police could investigate it and journalists could document it. No security cameras in LeBron’s exclusive neighborhood captured images of the assailant. We just accepted LeBron’s telling of the story.
The public is less accepting now. The Jussie Smollett fiasco elevated everyone’s cynicism.
Let me repeat. I don’t suspect Bubba Wallace of any wrongdoing.
I don’t trust NASCAR or the media. There’s too much economic pressure on these sports leagues for us to trust them. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought on a sports-TV economic collapse that would make any sports league desperate.
NASCAR, the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NHL, the PGA Tour, UFC, etc., are all just television shows. No different from The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Billions, The Wire and Game of Thrones.
TV shows adjust their plotlines to boost the ratings. The entire sports world is adding Black Lives Matter to its script.
The NFL now says Colin Kaepernick and taking a knee is the equivalent of Pat Tillman and dying in combat. What could be more patriotic than kneeling during the national anthem? That’s a plot twist the NFL hopes will save its television ratings.
Is NASCAR capable of casting Bubba Wallace as auto racing’s Tiger Woods? Hell yes. NASCAR is the brainchild of master promoter Bill France Sr. The motto of NASCAR used to be “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”
An hour after Ryan Blaney won the Talladega 500 and Bubba Wallace finished 14th, ESPN.com had four huge stories and/or videos at the top of its homepage celebrating and discussing Bubba Wallace. Blaney wasn’t even an afterthought.
That’s a plot twist. At this rate, don’t be surprised when NASCAR invites Al Sharpton and Colin Kaepernick to wave the green flag at Pocono.