Here is NASCAR’s complete explanation of the Bubba Wallace noose case at Talladega

Just minutes after a picture of the noose a member of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team found in Bubba Wallace’s Talladega Superspeedway garage stall was released Thursday, NASCAR president Steve Phelps spoke with media on a teleconference.

In the wake of an FBI investigation that determined a hate crime had not been committed against the sport’s only Black driver, and that the noose had been in place since October of 2019, the teleconference was NASCAR’s chance to tell its side of the story after facing widespread criticism of its escalating what ended up being a misunderstanding.

Phelps spent almost 10 minutes reading a prepared statement on how the noose was discovered, why the investigation was launched, how the investigation proceeded, when the FBI got involved and what NASCAR will do moving forward.

Below is Phelps’ explanation of the entire Bubba Wallace noose saga, transcribed in its entirety:

On why NASCAR decided to investigate:

“First I want to touch on our approach and our decision to investigate. As I mentioned on Tuesday, given the facts presented to us, we would have pursued this with the same sense of urgency and purpose. 

“Upon learning of and seeing the noose, our initial reaction was to protect our driver. We’re living in a highly charged and emotional time. What we saw was a symbol of hate and was only present in one area of the garage, that of the 43 car of Bubba Wallace. 

“In hindsight, we should have — I should have — used the word ‘alleged’ in our statement. Many of you have seen the photo. As you can see from the photo, the noose was real. As was our concern for Bubba. With similar emotion, others across our industry and our media stood up to defend the NASCAR family — our NASCAR family. Because they are part of the NASCAR family, too. We are proud to see so many stand up for what’s right. 

On the timeline of events after the discovery on the noose:

“I think it’s important to briefly go through the timeline now that our investigation is complete. It’s not exhaustive, but I think we’ll give you a sense for what happened. 

“On Sunday, after initial inspection and prior to the race, a member of the 43 team noticed the noose in the garage stall.

“At roughly 4:30, NASCAR was alerted to the presence of the noose. At that point we did a full sweep of the garage by our security team, and only the rope of the 43 team stall was a noose. All the others were regular ropes.

“At about 6 o’clock, NASCAR senior leadership met and immediately determined this needed to be investigated and began those initial steps in the investigation. 

“At approximately 7:30, I notified Bubba Wallace of what was found in the garage. After that, we continued to gather facts and conduct our investigation.

“We thought it was important to put out a statement as quickly as we could, which we did at roughly 10:40 on Sunday evening.

“Early Monday morning, the FBI Birmingham office reached out to us. By roughly 10 o’clock, the FBI arrived with 15 field agents to begin their investigation. We provided the FBI with a list of personnel with access to the garage, as well as video and images taken from the weekend, and the 2019 fall weekend, as well.

“During the course of the day, the FBI interviewed race team personnel from multiple teams, NASCAR officials, track fire and safety personnel, and track custodial staff. Talladega Superspeedway also provided the FBI with a list of events that had taken place since October of 2019, which is when the new garages opened. 

“The FBI reports back at the end of the day that their interviews are complete for the day, and the evidence so far, thus far at that point, was inconclusive, with plans to continue their investigation the following morning.

“On Tuesday morning NASCAR received additional video from a team that provided it to the FBI. The video corroborates the testimony from one of the interviews that the FBI had conducted that the noose was present in that stall during the fall Cup event. The U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI informed NASCAR that their investigation had conclusively found this was not a hate crime.

“We were asked to keep this confidential until the release. Their release went out at roughly 4:10. About 4:15 we released our own statement. And then we had our NASCAR teleconference Tuesday evening.

On why NASCAR continued its investigation after FBI findings:

“Through the investigation and the examination of the video and photographic evidence, the FBI was able to determine the noose was present in the same garage stall as last fall.

“It was still our responsibility to find answers to key questions. How did the noose get there? Was anyone an intended target? Was this a code of conduct violation? Are nooses present elsewhere in other garages where we race? So let me tackle the last one first.

“NASCAR conducted a thorough sweep of all the garage areas across the tracks where we race. So across those 29 tracks, and 1,684 garage stalls, we found only 11 total that had a pull-down rope tied into a knot. And only one noose — the one discovered Sunday in Bubba Wallace’s garage. 

“We further determined that the noose was not in place when the October 2019 race weekend began, but was created at some point during that weekend. Given that timing and the garage access policies and procedures at the time, we were unfortunately unable to determine with any certainty who tied this rope in this manner or why it was done.

On NASCAR’s next steps:

“Which brings up another question: How could it have gone unnoticed by so many people in October 2019 through the morning of June 21, 2020? 

“Our ultimate conclusions for this investigation is to ensure that this never happens again. That no one walks by a noose without recognizing the potential damage it can do. Moving forward, we will be conducting thorough sweeps of the garage area to ensure nothing like this happened again. And we are installing additional cameras in all of our garages.

“We’ll make any changes necessary to our sanctions and our code of conduct, and we will mandate that all members of our industry complete sensitivity and unconscious bias training with specifics and timing forthcoming. 

“Going forward, our efforts are making sure every competitor feels safe and every guest feels welcome. We did see at (the Talladega pre-race) on Monday, our drivers, crews and officials proudly demonstrated that are united in the belief that there is no place for racism in our sport.

“We want everyone with a love for racing to feel welcome, and a part of our NASCAR family. And our industry is going to protect our own against anyone that feels differently.

“My hope is that the fortunate results of the FBI investigation should not diminish the impact of that moment, not the message our sport sent. The world saw our true colors, and it made us all incredibly proud.

On Bubba Wallace’s role in the incident:

“Let me reiterate two things: Bubba Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with this. Bubba Wallace has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity. It’s offensive seeing anyone suggest otherwise, and frankly, it’s further evidence of how far we still need to go as a society.

“Secondly, there has been discussion and criticism of how this was handled and characterized. Some feel that the phrasing or words used were not right. That comes with the territory. And I will take full responsibility for that, and for the emotion that was attached to it.

“Based on the evidence we had, we felt that one of our drivers had been threatened, a driver who had been extremely courageous in recent words and actions. It was our responsibility to react and investigate, and that’s exactly what we did.”

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