The NASCAR Noose That Wasn’t

The story as I understand it: Bubba Wallace is a race car driver, the only black NASCAR racer.  He recently, like in the last week or two, got the Confederate flag banned from NASCAR, and, you know, it’s 2020, BLM, riots, protests, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor (and others), and tensions are HIGH.

The team, along with multiple other teams, moved to a new track for an upcoming race, and were randomly assigned their garages.  Somebody, presumably a member of the team (we know it wasn’t Mr. Bubba) saw what he (or she?) believed to be a noose and reported it as such to NASCAR and the FBI was called in and there was a huge fuss, a parade in support of Wallace, an FBI investigation and an interview or two (namely, one on The View, where Wallace said anybody doubting the story was simple-minded.  Garages were randomly assigned and nobody would have known which of them would be Wallace’s when he arrived this month. Wallace did not see it at all, or, if he did, it wasn’t until after the FBI wrapped it all up.

A member of a team who had previously raced on that track and used that garage heard about the fuss, and recalled that the rope used for a garage door pull was tied in such a way it might look like a noose to somebody else.  That person reported it either directly to the FBI or through channels.  The FBI looked into it, found a photograph showing that the ‘noose’ had been a garage door pull in that garage at least since last fall (October, 2019), so could not be a noose targeted at Bubba, and there’s no reason to suppose it was intended to be anything other than a door pull so they closed the case.  NASCAR is still investigating, they say, according to at least one article I read.

Throughout, the media acted like a shrill pack of hyenas, pouring gas on flames and stoking them for clicks and clout.

Speculation: Presumably, once the employee who believed he saw a noose reported it, the site was closed as a crime scene so the FBI could investigate.  That means most of the crew and staff wouldn’t have been in the garage at all, and anybody who had been there before hand wouldn’t necessarily have thought of the garage pull as a noose.
Presumably, though, NASCAR garages are also protected by loads of advanced security, both human and electronic, so nobody could have gotten in there and hung up a noose who didn’t actually work for Bubba or NASCAR, and that’s why most people who were skeptical thought that was ridiculous. But it’s not crazy if Bubba and his crew were a bit jumpy about threats, because they’ve probably been receiving some hate mail.

And I think that for perfectly understandable reasons, if you are predisposed to see looped ropes as nooses, you will.  And, for perfectly understandable reasons, black people are probably more sensitized to seeing looped ropes as nooses.  I am not saying that is being overly sensitive or ridiculous.  I am making a speculative guess, not an accusation.  I think it’s quite reasonable, especially given the timing (inflamed tensions, probably Wallace has received some ugly messages due to the Confederate Flag issue alone), that somebody might have seen that looped rope as a noose and a threat.  Probably most NASCAR garages have a garage pull with  the typical plastic tag attached to the end of the rope.  But those break, and probably when this one did, somebody tied a loop to the end of the rope because that works better for a handpull and lasts longer than a plastic or metal tag (one breaks, the other breaks/frays the rope).

For equally understandable reasons, if you’ve been using the rope as a doorpull, that’s what you see.  And if you’re white and not from the south (or aybe even if you’re the right age and from the south), lynching is not something that comes to mind as readily as it does to people with relatives who have been victimized by it.  A looped rope is a looped rope.  A noose has a larger hole, or loope, and hangs higher from the ground, to you.

Pedantic details: There is a difference between a noose and a loop when it comes to *using* the rope- a loop is tied with a bowline knot (I had to look this up), so it stays stable, and neither pulls tighter or loosens up when pressure is put on the loop.  You don’t want a rope doorpull with a loop at the end that will cinch tightly around your hand when you use it to pull on the rope.  I have one of these hanging from a tree in my yard.  The kids and now grandkids have used it to swing on- they put one foot through and stand up, holding the rope, and swing.  I think originally it was used to tie something else on to the tree- a bucket, maybe, a target for shooting bows at maybe, and whatever it was fell off and the rope was too tight to undue by then, so now it’s a swing.    Wait, I think I have two- the other is too high to swing on, but it also used to hold something else- I think a bucket used for target shooting, and the bucket got shot to pieces but the rope remains because it’s too high to get down anymore.  Ilt’s a larger loop at the end, but still not large enough to be, well, the other thing, and it’s a loop, not a noose.

A noose is tied with a different kind of knot, because it’s *supposed* to be easy to loosen a bit when you put it over your (and this is gruesome) target, whether that’s a calf, a mustang, (and this most gruesome of all) a man’s head, and then tighten up when you put weight and pressure on the looped end.  If it doesn’t tighten up easily, it’s not any use as a noose.  If it tightens easily, it’s not any use as a swing or a door pull or anything else that doesn’t require a noose.

Again, this is just pedantic and I don’t expect that either a person using it merely as a grim, hateful, but ultimately symbolic threat or the person feeling threatened knows or cares about the difference. The difference really only matters to those of us who love pedantic points, and to people who need to use the rope for a specific job and need it to function properly for their purpose.

So the FBI wrapped up the case, proving for a fact that Bubba was not the target of a racist threat (or any threat).  And then Bubba had to double down and insist even if he wasn’t threatened it was definitely a noose and he knows it was there with ill intent.  This is sad.  I dn’t know why- I dn’t know if he believes it truly, or if he’s too embarrassed to back down, or if he knows better but finds it useful for the publicity.
Not being a mind reader, I have no way of knowing if it’s any of these reasons or some other reason.

Lots of people hating on him for starting this mess, but he did not see it and did not report it, so that’s not fair.   Lots of other people hating on him and the whole staff, saying they ‘had to have known’, but, in fact, they didn’t have to have known.  The media could have keep their baying down while the investigation took place, or could have offered reasonable alternatives, or could have interviewed previous users of the garage and asked questions, but they prefer to make things worse.

The everything is racist crown react predictably, as do the nothing is racist anymore crowd, and there’s never any room for nuance and too much shouting for either side to listen to and understand each other, not that they want to, and for this and too many other reasons to count, 2020 is just going to be the new word for absolutely insanely ridiculously stupid from hereon out.

The prevalence of hate crime hoaxes




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