NASCAR’s Only African American Driver Bubba Wallace on Kyle Larson Using Racial Slur: I'm ‘Hurt’
NASCAR’s Kyle Larson was fired from his team after using a racial slur during a virtual race
On Sunday, Larson was participating in an iRacing match-up with 61 other racers that was broadcast live to viewers on Twitch and eNASCAR.com, USA Today reported. When Larson seemed to be having technical difficulties, he remarked on his microphone, “You can’t hear me? Hey, [racial slur].”
The moment was captured and re-shared on Twitter, and others on the stream quickly reacted, saying, “Kyle, you’re talking to everyone, bud,” “Yep, we heard that,” and “Yikes.”
Wallace, 26, posted a statement to his Twitter page Thursday reacting to the incident.
“As much as I didn’t want to be involved, I was from the very beginning,” Wallace wrote. “There is a part of my background that feels attacked and hurt, and the other part feels confused and angry.”
The driver went on to say that Larson, 27, reached out to him immediately after the stream to apologize. The “apology was sincere” and “his emotions and pride were shattered,” Wallace said.
“I told him, it was too easy for him to use the word and that he has to do better and get it out of his vocabulary,” he continued. “There is no place for that word in this world. I am not mad at him, and I believe that he, along with most people deserve second chances, and deserve space to improve.”
Wallace also said that Larson’s behavior is not representative of NASCAR’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
“NASCAR has been doing what it can to get away from the ‘racist and redneck sport’ labels,” Wallace said. “Diversity and inclusion is a main priority for the sport across every team, every car, every crew member and employee.”
On Monday, NASCAR penalized Larson by indefinitely suspending him and requiring him to attend sensitivity training.
“NASCAR has made diversity and inclusion a priority and will not tolerate the type of language used by Kyle Larson during Sunday’s iRacing event,” NASCAR told PEOPLE in a statement. “Our Member Conduct Guidelines are clear in this regard, and we will enforce these guidelines to maintain an inclusive environment for our entire industry and fan base.”
Larson posted a video apology on Twitter that same day, saying that the “damage is probably unrepairable and I own up to that” and adding that he “made a mistake and said the word that should never ever be said.”
“There’s no excuse for that; I wasn’t raised that way — it’s just an awful thing to say,” he continued. “I feel very sorry for my family, my friends, my partners, the NASCAR community and especially the African American community.”
Larson’s team, Chip Ganassi Racing, later fired him, issuing a statement citing his comment as “both offensive and unacceptable.”
“After much consideration, Chip Ganassi Racing has determined that it will end its relationship with driver Kyle Larson,” the Tuesday statement read. “As we said before, the comments that Kyle made were both offensive and unacceptable especially given the values of our organization. As we continued to evaluate the situation with all the relevant parties, it became obvious that this was the only appropriate course of action to take.”