A "pissed" Bubba Wallace began having his say Tuesday night hours after federal law enforcement officials said the "noose" that was found hanging from the NASCAR driver's garage stall Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway had been there for months and was therefore not a hate crime against him.
Wallace, the only Black driver in NASCAR's Cup Series and an Alabama native, told CNN's Don Lemon that no matter how long the rope had been up there, it was "a straight-up noose" and not a garage pull, which is what social media detectives are claiming.
"I've been racing all my life. We've raced out of hundreds of garages that never had garage pulls like that. So people that want to call it a garage pull and put out all the videos and photos of knots being their evidence, go ahead," Wallace said.
"The FBI has stated it was a noose over and over again," he added. "NASCAR leadership has stated that it was a noose. I can confirm that I actually got evidence of what was hanging in my garage over my car, around my pit crew guys, to confirm that it was a noose. Never seen anything like it."
Wallace said he knows he will never persuade people he believes don't want him to succeed. Commenters have called him, among other things, a bad person, a self-promoter, a hypocrite and another Jussie Smollett.
"You get backlash every day. . . . I'm used to it. It stings a little bit worse when they're trying to test your character . . . and try to take something away from me that's false," he said "But the backlash will always be there. It doesn't matter if we provide 100 percent facts and evidence, photo evidence. People are going to Photoshop it to make me look like the bad person.
"At the end of the day, I will always have haters. I will always have the motivators to go out there and to try to dethrone me from the pedestal that I am on."
"I'm pissed. I'm mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity." - NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace on social media reaction to the conclusion of the FBI investigation into the noose found in his team's garage https://t.co/YH4ynYqv64 pic.twitter.com/fB0m9Yj9FD
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) June 24, 2020
Wallace then spoke to "all the kids" who want to be in sports.
"Just know that you will automatically be put on a pedestal, whether you like it or not," he said. "That's what happens when you have a voice and you have a platform. People are going to try to take that away from you with all their power. They will lose sleep over making sure you don't succeed, so you have to be strong, always keep you head on a swivel and always watch your back, but always stand up for what's right."
Even though Wallace is convinced now that a noose was found, he said he wasn't sure at first on Sunday night after being informed by NASCAR president Steve Phelps, who Wallace said came to his motorhome to tell him directly.
"I talked to my crew chief about it. I wanted to make sure we weren't jumping the gun. I said, 'This isn't a knot, this isn't just a regular old whatchacallit.' He's like, 'Bubba, this isn't something that can be done within a second of just tying a knot and being on the way. This is something that took time,'" Wallace told Lemon.
"It was a noose," he continued. "Whether it was tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose. It wasn't directed at me, but somebody tied a noose. That's what I'm saying. It was — it is — a noose."
Prior to Monday's rain-delayed Geico 500, NASCAR last raced at Talladega on Oct. 14 of last year. Media members posted photos and videos Tuesday showing the noose hanging in Garage Stall 4 at that time. The stall was assigned last fall to Wood Brothers Racing and driver Paul Menard. Wood Brothers said Tuesday that a crew member informed them Monday that he remembered seeing a "tied handle. That information was passed on to NASCAR.
NASCAR said Tuesday it was alerted to the rope after a member of Wallace's team noticed it Sunday afternoon. Phelps said that no other ropes in the garage area were tied like a noose. He added that NASCAR will continue to investigate the matter.
Phelps also said Wallace's team "had nothing to do" with the incident.