US authorities probe noose found in black NASCAR racer's garage

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Los Angeles (AFP)

US justice authorities said Monday they were probing the discovery of a noose found in the garage of black NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace as athletes rallied in support of the trailblazing racer.

A statement from US federal prosecutor Jay Town in Alabama said the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division were working to determine if any laws had been violated.

"Regardless of whether federal charges can be brought, this type of action has no place in our society," a statement said.

The announcement came a day after NASCAR revealed that a noose had been found in Wallace's garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Wallace is the only black driver who races full-time in NASCAR's top Cup series and recently successfully called for the removal of the Confederate flag at the circuit's events.

On Sunday, NASCAR launched its own investigation into the incident, describing it as a "heinous" act.

"We are angry and outraged and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act," NASCAR said.

"We have launched an immediate investigation and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport.

"There is no place for racism in NASCAR and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all."

Wallace, who has been outspoken about racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, commented on the incident in a statement posted on Twitter, saying he was "incredibly saddened" by the "despicable act of racism".

"This will not break me," Wallace said. "I will not give in, nor will I back down."

Meanwhile, other sports stars have sent messages of support to Wallace following the noose's discovery.

NBA star LeBron James described the incident as "sickening".

"Know you don't stand alone!" James wrote. "I'm right here with you as well as every other athlete.

"I just want to continue to say how proud I am of you for continuing to take a stand for change here in America and sports!"

Several NASCAR drivers tweeted messages using the hashtag #IStandWithBubba.

"I can't begin to fathom the pain this action has caused. I stand with you @BubbaWallace," wrote seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.