In a shocking incident, a noose was found in the garage stall of NASCAR's only African-American driver Bubba Wallace at the Talladega Super Speedway. Coming at a time when the whole country is in the grip of protests over the George Floyd incident, this mischievous and devious act has left everyone concerned highly worried.
But in the current polarized environment, even this incident has led to diametrically-opposed responses on social media. While many have outrightly condemned this act, some people are not convinced that the whole episode is one of malevolent mischief.
After the news became well-known, many on social media started mentioning the incident involving Jussie Smollett from last year. The implication was that Wallace may have got the noose placed in his stall himself to gain some publicity and sympathy from the people. Soon, 'Jussie' became a top trend on Twitter.
Jussie Smollett incident
Last year, on January 29, African-American actor Jussie Smollett claimed to have been assaulted by a couple of white men in Chicago who used racial invective during their attack. This followed, according to the actor, him receiving a letter on 22nd of the month threatening him and containing the acronym 'MAGA.' The supposed victim claimed that he is being targeted for his comments against President Donald Trump's administration.
However, when the Chicago police investigated the whole incident, they found out that two men, of Nigerian descent, well known to the actor, were involved in the alleged assault and had received substantial monetary payments, supposedly from Smollett himself.
Smollett then faced charges of having orchestrated the entire attack himself to gain publicity and filing false report with the police. He ended up being indicted but then his legal team reached a deal with the prosecutors. The charges were dropped but the actor had to undergo 16 hours of community service and also give up a bond worth $10,000.
Reaction to Bubba Wallace incident
NASCAR has responded strongly to the discovery of the noose in Wallace's garage stall. In an official statement, the organisation said: "Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team. We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act.
"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."
However, in another manifestation of the highly polarized political atmosphere of the country, many people are suggesting that this incident too could have been staged by Wallace himself to gain the sort of publicity and sympathy that Smollett sought last year.
"Another Jussie Smollett case," one tweet read. "Jussie Smollett 2.0....watch and see," someone else reacted on the micro-blogging site.
Only time will tell what comes out of the investigation. But in a sport still heavily dominated by whites, an incident such as this has caused a lot of discomfort for everyone involved.