Online trolls are targeting Bubba Wallace after a noose was found in his NASCAR stall, claiming the incident could be a hoax and comparing him to actor Jussie Smollet.
NASCAR said it is launching an investigation after the noose was found on Sunday in the stall for Wallace, the sport's only full-time black driver who recently led a push for the sport to ban the Confederate flag.
Wallace announced in a Twitter post late on Sunday that he was "incredibly saddened" by the discovery, which he called a "despicable" act of racism.NASCAR also released a strongly worded statement, saying it was outraged over the incident.
"We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act," NASCAR said in a statement Sunday night, via CBS Sports. "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."In the wake of the announcement, a number of online trolls claimed that Wallace faked the noose.
"I call BS," tweeted conservative pundit Mark Dice. "Probably just an extension cord hanging from the ceiling. 99.9 percent of these 'noose' stories turn out to be false."
The name "Jussie Smollet" was also trending on Twitter late on Sunday and into the early morning hours on Sunday, with some comparing Wallace's incident to the later debunked story the Empire actor told of a racially motivated attack against him.Wallace had spoken out amid growing national protests in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, wearing a shirt with the words "I can't breathe" at a race.
Wallace had recently led a push against displays of the Confederate flag at NASCAR races, saying he did not believe anyone should feel uncomfortable going to races. In recent years, displays of the flag have come under intense scrutiny following events such as the 2015 mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, by white supremacist Dylann Roof, who displayed the flag at his home.
The reaction has been largely positive, however, and Wallace said in the statement on Sunday night that he had been "overwhelmed" by support from people across the industry. He said he had spoken to his mother about the noose incident, relaying that she believed someone was trying to scare him. Wallace said he would not allow the incident to break him and vowed to not back down.