Willy T. Ribbs, the first Black driver to race in the Indianapolis 500, says he was not surprised that a noose was found in Bubba Wallace's garage at the Geico 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Wallace, currently the only Black driver in the Cup Series, has been an advocate for justice and racial equality in the sport.
Ribbs spoke to CNN about Wallace and NASCAR, and said that "It didn't shock" him that a noose was found in the driver's garage.
"That's what happens in that environment sometimes," he said. "I was getting death threats, so a rope would've been a piece of cake for me."
“It didn’t shock me, that’s what happens in that environment sometimes,” says Willy T. Ribbs, the first black driver in the Indianapolis 500, about a noose found in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s garage.— CNN (@CNN) June 23, 2020
Ribbs said when he was a driver he would get “death threats.” pic.twitter.com/EocBdDn5dA
Ribbs than spoke more about his own experiences in the sports. He said that he'd see racial slurs written on bathroom walls and that he would get letters of hate.
After the noose incident, the sports world came together to support Wallace. Before Monday's Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the entire garage pushed the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro in solidarity.
Ribbs said that kind of unity did not exist when he was paving the way for Black drivers.
"I was there 30 years before him, and I didn't get that kind of support," he said.
Wallace was outspoken about banning the Confederate flag at races recently, and shortly after his statement, NASCAR made the ban official. Ribbs appreciated the progression, but believes that this is an issue that impacts NASCAR far more than any other sport.
"NASCAR's taken a step, it's about 50 years a little late, but they've taken a step," he said. "You never see [the Confederate flag] in any other major sporting event... The Confederate flag means the same to African Americans as the swastika does to Jewish people. It's demeaning, it's more than demeaning, it represents the support of slavery, it represents treason."
He knows people will continue to "kick and scream" about not being able to show the flag at events, but Ribbs said that ultimately the side of racial unity will continue to make races welcoming for everyone.
"The good thing is good people, in all colors, are going to push for the right thing. They're gonna keep doing it," he said.