The Untold Truth Of Bubba Wallace

Following George Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired many organizations to take a stand against racism. Statues that celebrate Confederate leaders have been dismantled across the United States, and now, thanks to NASCAR's Bubba Wallace, the Confederate flag has also been banned from every race and property under its umbrella as of June 2020. According to an official statement, NASCAR emphasized that "the presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment."

"I'm very gracious to have an elite group of drivers who are willing to stand up for what's right and be able to convey the message as well, and push the envelope," Wallace told Good Morning America. "It just shows the kind of respect we have for each other."

Wallace added, "We live in a very selfish world—I'm selfish myself—and this is so much more than about ourselves; this is about our brothers and our sisters that are suffering through a lot. You look at the Confederate flag and how, yes it may mean heritage to most, but to a group that is in a lot of pain right now... that's a symbol of hate and it brings back so many bad memories; signs of oppression from way back when."

As the division's only black driver, Wallace — who celebrated his 26th birthday in October 2019 — has become an admired member of the NASCAR community for his leadership.

NASCAR drivers praise Bubba Wallace's passion for social justice

During a CNN interview in June 2020, race car driver Bubba Wallace explained that "no one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race." He added, "There's going to be a lot of angry people that carry those flags proudly, but it's time for change." 

Since NASCAR's Confederate flag ban, many of Wallace's fellow drivers had nothing but praise for the leader.

"I think it's great, the initiative he's showing and wanting to be a part of change, the right change," fellow driver Ryan Blaney told NBC Sports. "It's good things, a good cause that he's striving towards."

Driver Joey Lagano also expressed his admiration. "It says in the Bible, 'Look at yourself before others,' and I think you need to fix your heart, find your heart, know what's right. I'm not speaking as myself, I'm speaking for everybody, that's just the way we should be," Lagano said. 

He continued, "I say this all the time, winning a championship is nice, but what is it? It's an empty trophy, it's an empty cup. That's what it is. If you do nothing with it, it's really pointless at the end of the day, so kudos to him for really stepping up and being a leader and not just a race car driver." 

It's clear Wallace's passion and persistence have brought new energy to the NASCAR speedway.

Ray Ciccarelli quit NASCAR in response to Bubba Wallace's activism

Although many of Bubba Wallace's colleagues have applauded his activism, NASCAR truck driver Ray Ciccarelli announced he's quitting the division following its Confederate flag ban. The part-time competitor in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series told his Facebook fans, per CBS Sports, that "if this is the direction Nascar is headed we will not participate after 2020 season is over."

"[I] don't believe in kneeling during Anthem nor taken ppl right to fly what ever flag they love," Ciccarelli wrote. "I could care less about the Confederate Flag but there are ppl that do and it doesn't make them a racist all you are doing is f***ing one group to cater to another and i ain't spend the money we are to participate in any political BS!!"

NASCAR's Confederate flag ban, however, isn't the organization's first attempt at removing the offensive symbol from its events. In 2015, the division asked all attendees to refrain from flying the Confederate flag and even provided an exchange program at its speedways, according to NBC News.

"We are committed to providing a welcoming atmosphere free of offensive symbols," NASCAR said in an official statement. "This is an opportunity for NASCAR Nation to demonstrate its sense of mutual respect and acceptance for all who attend our events while collectively sharing the tremendous experience of NASCAR racing." 

Although the initial request didn't stick, many are hopeful this new ban will last.

Bubba Wallace's car honored Black Lives Matter

Not only did NASCAR's Bubba Wallace wear an "I Can't Breathe" t-shirt — a symbol of his support for George Floyd and the countless other black men who've died while in police custody — but he also made another bold statement with his car's paint scheme.

On the same day NASCAR announced its official Confederate flag ban, Wallace drove a car honoring Black Lives Matter to spark conversation throughout the NASCAR community. The car in question featured a white and black hand clasped together above the words "Compassion, Love, Understanding."

 "I think by running this branding on our car, putting the hashtag out there, bringing more awareness to it, it lines up with the videos that we had put out as NASCAR," he told CNN. "Listening and learning. Educating ourselves. So people will look up what this hashtag means. And hopefully get a better understanding."

As NASCAR's first full-time Black driver to compete in the Cup Series since '71, Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports wanted to make a statement that'd "speak volumes for what [he] stand for, but also what the initiative that NASCAR, the whole sport, is trying to push," per NASCAR

Many fans and race car drives alike have praised Wallace for his efforts to evoke positive change. Go, Bubba!

Bubba Wallace's fellow drivers have his back

Before NASCAR's Bubba Wallace and his fellow drivers took to the Talladega Superspeedway on June 22, 2020, the driver allegedly discovered a noose hanging in the garage he'd been assigned. Although an FBI investigation has since determined that this event wasn't a targeted hate crime, it doesn't change the fact that Wallace's fellow drivers had his back immediately following the incident. Showing their support for the Black driver before the GEICO 500, Wallace's colleagues pushed his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet to the front of the grid before the race, per NASCAR's press release.

"The drivers feel very strongly that they want to show their support of Bubba," NASCAR President Steve Phelps said on a pre-race teleconference, according to Nascar. "He's a member of the NASCAR community. He's a member of the NASCAR family."

Wallace added that he's been "overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry including other dreams and team members in the garages." He said in a statement, "Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone. Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate."

Wallace also noted that he'll "continue to proudly stand for what [he] believe(s) in."