The incident comes a month after NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its events and properties

By Georgia Slater
July 16, 2020 01:35 PM
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A small plane towing a Confederate banner flew over Bristol Motor Speedway Wednesday, marking the second time the flag has appeared at a race since being banned last month.

The banner was flown ahead of NASCAR's All-Star Race at the Tennessee track and circled for several hours beginning around 4 p.m. local time, according to the Bristol Herald Courier.

Along with the Confederate flag, the banner featured a Sons of Confederate Veterans' logo with a link to the group's website.

The Tennessee-based group claimed responsibility for flying a similar banner over Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama on June 21, which included the phrase, "Defund NASCAR."

According to USA Today, no Confederate flags were visible in the grandstands during Wednesday's race.

The flag has been at the center of renewed controversy amid the Black Lives Matters protests that have taken place worldwide following the death of George Floyd on May 25 while in police custody.

Bubba Wallace, the first full-time Black driver to race in the Cup Series in nearly 50 years, called on NASCAR last month to ban the symbol from its events.

"No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race," he told CNN ahead of the ban.

The Confederate States of America used the flag before its downfall in 1865. It has since "served as a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy, which has caused it to be very popular among white supremacists," according to the Anti-Defamation League.

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On June 10, two days after Wallace pushed the company to remove the symbol, NASCAR announced that the Confederate flag would be prohibited from all of its events and properties, noting the move would help provide "a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry."

"Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special," the statement continued. "The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties."

On the same day that the Confederate flag was flown over Talladega, a noose was found in Wallace's garage stall where he was assigned for a Cup Series race.

"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," NASCAR said in a statement.

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NASCAR notified Wallace, 26, of the discovery and an FBI investigation followed. The FBI ultimately determined that months earlier someone had fashioned a noose out of the pull-down rope for the garage door, but the agency declined to describe it as an intentional racist act.

Since then, Wallace has dealt with a rash of public criticism including a tweet from President Donald Trump calling the incident a "hoax."

"I knew how it was going to be received. ... I'd never even seen the image until Tuesday morning," he previously told PEOPLE, referencing the image of the noose released by NASCAR. "I'm not even allowed in the garage because of COVID-19, I have strict orders to stay out of the garage. So, I'd never seen it. And so, I knew how it was going to look and that's the unfortunate side of how people are magically going to take that and place the blame on me."

"I'm done trying to stand up against them because they're simple-minded and they're not going to change in their ways," he said of his detractors. "I'll continue to help educate others that want to be a part of the change and maybe one day the naysayers will understand the real message that we're trying to push."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.