CONCORD, N.C. — Bubba Wallace, the only African-American driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, has broken his silence following Kyle Larson’s use of a racial slur during an iRacing event last Sunday.
Larson was heard using a racial slur during the Monza Madness iRacing event. Wallace, in a statement posted Thursday afternoon to Twitter, said what Larson said was wrong, no matter how, why or when it was said.
“What Larson said was wrong, whether in private or public,” said Wallace, who drives the No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports. “There is no gray area. I saw the incident the night it happened and within five minutes Kyle texted me. He called me the next morning as well. Finally, I called him back with a FaceTime to talk ‘face to face,’ and we had a good conversation, his apology was sincere.
“His emotions and pride were shattered. We discussed why he chose to use that language and I shared my thoughts. 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. There is no place for that word in this world.”
The backlash was swift for Larson. NASCAR suspended the 27-year-old driver and the following day, Chip Ganassi Racing terminated Larson’s contract.
The six-time NASCAR Cup Series race winner was dropped by a number of sponsors, including McDonald’s, Credit One Bank, First Data/Clover and Lucas Oil. Chevrolet also terminated its relationship with Larson.
Wallace made it clear the word Larson used wasn’t just any other word. He commended NASCAR’s effort to eliminate racist stereotypes from the sport, but he was disappointed to see the African-American community lambast auto racing in the aftermath of Larson’s comments.
“The word brings many terrible memories for people and families and brings them back to a time that we, as a community and human race, have tried our hardest to get away from,” Wallace said. “The sport has made combatting this stereotype one of their top priorities. NASCAR has been doing what it can to get away from the racist and redneck sport labels.
“Diversity and inclusion is a main priority for the sport across every team, every car, every crew member and employee. With that said, it hurts to see the African-American community immediately throw NASCAR under the bus with the, ‘I’m not shocked, it’s NASCAR.’ NASCAR has been and will be way better than how we’ve been represented in the last couple of weeks. As the person that arguably has the biggest voice on the topic in the sport, it’s tough for me to speak to because I didn’t imagine us being here.
“Can we all do a better job with inclusion? Absolutely. It’s a worldwide problem, not just in our sport. We as humans can always do better.”
Wallace stated that he wasn’t mad at Larson and that he believes in second chances.
“I am not mad at him and I believe that he, along with most people, deserve second chances and deserve space to improve. I do wish him and his family nothing but the best. And I am more than willing to work with him to address diversity and inclusion in our sport,” Wallace said.
Wallace went on to discuss how, as ambassadors of the sport, people like himself and Larson are held to a higher standard than other people.
“As an athlete, we immediately become representative of something bigger than ourselves,” Wallace said. “This is something most people may not understand. We are ambassadors for our partners, our race teams, crews, families and the sanctioning body. Every single person is affected.
“Have I been the best ambassador at times? Absolutely not,” Wallace added. “We’re not perfect, I am not perfect. We’re all humans, we make mistakes. Often given many chances. The part that irks me the most are the people that say, ‘But if Bubba said it, nothing would happen.’
“Let me throw the rule book at you first. ‘As a NASCAR member, we shall not make or cause a public statement or communication that criticizes, ridicules or otherwise disparages another person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age or handicapping condition.’ I am a NASCAR member. A damn proud one, too. I would expect and should be held to the same standard as any other members of the sport.”
You can view Wallace’s full statement below.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) April 16, 2020