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Bubba Wallace understands that people may continue to protest NASCAR’s Confederate flag ban. And he also understands that they have the right to do so peacefully.
The Cup Series race at Talladega on Monday was the first at the track and in the state of Alabama since NASCAR banned fans from flying the Confederate flag at tracks on June 10. Some fans protested with Confederate flag outside the track and a group paid for a large flag to be flown by a small plane over the track on Sunday.
“It’s the right for peaceful protests,” Wallace said, when he was asked about the protests. “It’s part of it. But you won’t see them inside of the race tracks where we’re having a good time with the new fans that have purchased their tickets and purchased their favorite driver’s apparel. You won’t see it flying in there. Outside, they’re just going to be making a lot of noise. It’s part of it. It’s exactly what you see on the flip side of everything going on in cities as they peacefully protest. But we won’t see cops pepper-spraying them and shooting them with rubber bullets, will you?”
Wallace’s last line is, of course, a reference to police actions that have been documented across the country in social media posts and news videos during the largely peaceful protests after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The most infamous example is the violent way that peaceful protesters were cleared out of Lafayette Square near the White House to make way for President Donald Trump to take a picture with a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
That was in contrast with the scenes in Michigan and in other states earlier this year during the coronavirus pandemic when armed protesters voiced their disagreement with stay-at-home orders and other rules designed to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Wallace ran a car in support of Black Lives Matter on the same day NASCAR banned the Confederate flag. NASCAR’s ban came two days after Wallace said NASCAR should bar fans from flying the flag at tracks and three days after NASCAR held a moment of silence ahead of its Cup race at Atlanta.
‘We’ll never shut them up’
Wallace, the only Black driver racing full-time in NASCAR, received a lot of vitriol over the past five days as NASCAR and federal investigators looked into the discovery of a noose in his team’s garage stall. The FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Nothern District of Alabama said Tuesday that no charges would be filed because the noose had been in Wallace’s garage stall since October.
Wallace never saw the noose on Sunday, the day it was discovered. He was told about the noose by NASCAR president Steve Phelps. Yet those pesky facts — and the fact that federal investigators said it was a noose — didn’t stop an unfortunately vocal set of opinion-havers from claiming Wallace was part of an elaborate hoax or setup.
“I know people are going to try to knock me and bump me off the throne, the pedestal I’m on, the same pedestal that I’ve been on for 16 or 17 years now since I started,” Wallace said. “So, I’m fine with it. It’s fine. I love to get out and compete and have really good runs. It’s just motivation to go out and to have really good races. We’ll never shut them up. They’re afraid of themselves. They’re afraid of change. Sometimes those are the people that you can’t help throughout all the chaos in the world. Those are the ones who need the most help. But, you quickly realize they don’t give a damn about you and I don’t give a damn about them.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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