The FBI says Bubba Wallace is not the target of a hate crime

NASCAR, in citing the FBI report, described the item as a “garage door pull rope designed as a lasso.”

“The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the rope was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday. “The investigation also revealed evidence, including an authentic video confirmed by NASCAR, that the rope found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019. Although the rope is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019 No one could have known that Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week. “

Wallace had not publicly responded to the FBI’s finding until Tuesday night. NASCAR said it never saw the rope.

NASCAR released a statement regarding the FBI’s decision saying, “We appreciate the FBI’s prompt and thorough investigation and are grateful to know that this was not an intentional and racist act against Bubba.”

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing,” NASCAR said.

Richard Petty Motorsports, which places the No. 43 car driven by Wallace, released a statement saying that one of his employees “discovered a rope tied like a rope at the garage stall” assigned to Wallace.

Petty’s employees followed the protocol and notified NASCAR, according to the statement.

“No member of Richard Petty Motorsports, nor Wallace were involved with the presence of the rope,” the statement said.

Also Tuesday, the Wood Brothers Racing team said via Twitter that a member of their team recalled seeing a rope hanging on the garage stand in the fall of 2019. That information was relayed to appropriate authorities as part of the investigation. NASCAR The Wood Brothers said.

The discovery of the rope on Sunday afternoon at Wallace’s garage stall in Talladega came as the United States, and NASCAR in particular, more directly addressed systemic racism in the United States in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd.

Wallace, the only black driver on the NASCAR superior circuit, has openly defended the Black Lives Matter movement and related protests against racism and police brutality.

In a conference call Tuesday, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the FBI finding is the “best result we could hope for.”

“Team (No.) 43 had nothing to do with this,” said Phelps. Wallace drives car No. 43.

“The evidence is very clear that the rope that was in that garage had been in the garage before,” Phelps continued. “The last race we had there in October, that rope was present, and it was: the fact that it was not found until a member of team 43 got there is something that is a fact. We had not returned to the garage. It was a quick one-day show. The crew member returned there. He looked and saw the rope, it caught the attention of his crew chief, who then went to NASCAR series director Jay Fabian, and we launched this investigation.

“To be clear, we would do this again. From the evidence we had, it was clear that we needed to investigate this.”

Phelps did not respond to media questions on the call.

Why is the rope such a powerful symbol of hatred?

A NASCAR spokesperson said in the call that while the federal investigation is complete, the NASCAR investigation continues.

Wallace wore a “I can’t breathe” t-shirt before an event, repainted his car with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and asked NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag, which the organization agreed to do on June 10.

Wallace tweeted Sunday that the “despicable act” left him “incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism.”

“This will not break me, I will not give in or back down. I will continue to proudly stand up for what I believe in,” Wallace said.

On Monday, NASCAR drivers, pit crew members and others walked alongside Wallace and escorted the No. 43 car in a show of support before the race.

CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Kevin Dotson contributed to this report.