- A noose was found in NASCAR driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace’s team stall Sunday. Wallace is the only Black driver in the current series.
- Later that day, NASCAR announced it would be launching an investigation and would “eliminate” whoever was responsible from the sport.
- Wallace made headlines earlier this month for his successful push to have NASCAR ban the display of the Confederate Flag from all events.
- On Monday, the Department of Justice and the FBI also said they would begin looking into the incident.
Noose Found in Wallace’s Stall
The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Monday that they will be investigating reports of a noose found in a Black NASCAR driver’s garage stall.
The two government agencies follow NASCAR, which announced its own investigation Sunday night after that noose was found in Driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace’s stall. Wallace is the only Black driver in NASCAR’s Cup Series, its top racing competition.
“We are angry and outraged and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” the association said. “As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.”
In a previous statement Sunday afternoon, NASCAR announced it had found that noose. Reportedly, it was found by an employee, and Wallace never saw it.
“Today’s despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism,” Wallace said on Twitter Sunday night, adding, “we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate.”
“This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to stand proudly for what I believe in.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey also released a statement Monday morning, saying she was “shocked and appalled to hear of yesterday’s vile act against BubbaWallace in Talladega.”
Ivey went on pledge her commitment “to assisting in any way possible to ensure that the person responsible for this is caught and punished.”
As several reporters for NASCAR have noted, even before coronavirus security measures were put in place, security around drivers’ stalls was already incredibly tight. Because of that, they suspect the person who planted the noose may work for NASCAR. NASCAR’s investigation announcement also seems to support this idea as the association promised to “eliminate” the person responsible from the sport.
Social media seemed to erupt like firecracker Sunday night after the news of the incident began to trend.
“Imagine going to your place of work…a place you deem a safe space, and finding a symbol of death,” Fox Sports NASCAR Host Kaitlyn Vincie. “That is @BubbaWallace’s reality. That is the hatred he deals with. Many will never, ever know what that reality is like. THIS HAS TO STOP.”
In a very emotional response, NASCAR reporter Marty Smith told SportsCenter:
“You’re not just hurting one or two people, whomever you are. You’re hurting a whole lot of people who made the decision that it’s damn sure time to go be better. And it pisses me the hell off and it pisses everybody else in the sport off who care, who care not only for Bubba but for every other person who he is standing up for.”
A number of Wallace’s fellow drivers also voiced their support for Wallace, some using #IStandWithBubba.
Outside of NASCAR, athletes like LeBron James supported Wallace as well as thanked NASCAR for quickly denouncing the incident and promising to launch an investigation.
“Sickening!,” James said. “BubbaWallace my brother! Know you don’t stand alone! 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!”
On Sunday night, actor Jussie Smollett also trended alongside Wallace, with many comparing the finding of the noose to Smollett’s alleged 2019 assault in Chicago. In February, Smollet was indicted on six counts of making four false reports.
People comparing Wallace to Smollett then pushed the idea that the noose found in Wallace’s garage was a hoax planted by him; however, no evidence of this has been found, and many have said that Smollett’s alleged actions make it harder for real victims to be believed.
NASCAR Bans the Confederate Flag
Since the massive protests over police brutality and racial injustice began last month, Wallace has been an ardent supporter.
In fact, he’s even modified his car with #BlackLivesMatter and wears an “I can’t breathe” shirt in reference to George Floyd, whose death catalyzed those protests.
On June 8, Wallace told CNN Anchor Don Lemon that he would pursue getting rid of all Confederate flags at NASCAR events.
“There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family that feels some type of way about something they have seen, an object they have seen flying,” Wallace said. “No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
NASCAR had previously banned the Confederate Flag from all use on any cars or official merchandise. In 2015, it also asked fans to not display the Confederate Flag at races, but it had never been officially banned from fan use.
Two days after Wallace made those comments to Lemon, that all changed.
“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” NASCAR said in a statement. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
In a race later that day, Wallace cheered that decision; however, NASCAR didn’t have to worry about enforcing its new rule at that event since it hadn’t yet started to allow fans back into stadiums.
It wasn’t Sunday night at the Talladega SuperSpeedway in Alabama that fans were allowed to return to watch races in person for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown.
While reports from inside the event suggested that fans put away their flags upon entering the stadium, outside, many fans waved those flags. In fact, reportedly, hundreds of vehicles lined with Confederate Flags formed a two-mile long caravan and drove past the track entrance in protest.
“The idea is to do it when people are trying to get in the gate,” one man told The New York Times.
In the sky, a plane carried a banner of a Confederate Flag and a sign that read, “Defund NASCAR.”
Rain and lightning ultimately cancelled Sunday’s race before it started, so it was rescheduled for 3 p.m. EST on Monday.
See what others are saying: (ESPN) (The Washington Post) (NPR)
Inmates Sue Jail for Giving Them Ivermectin to Treat COVID-19 Without Consent
Four detainees who filed the suit allege that the jail’s doctor gave them “incredibly high doses” of the anti-parasite in a “cocktail of drugs” that he said were “‘vitamins’, ‘antibiotics,’ and/or ‘steroids.’”
Washington County Detention Center Lawsuit
Four inmates at an Arkansas jail have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that they were unknowingly given the anti-parasite drug ivermectin without their consent by the detention center’s doctor after contracting COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and countless other medical experts have said that ivermectin — commonly used for livestock — can be dangerous and should not be used to treat the coronavirus.
According to the lawsuit, after testing positive for COVID in August, the four men at the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC) were given a “cocktail of drugs” twice a day by the facility’s doctor, Robert Karas.
The inmates claim that Dr. Karas did not tell them that he was giving them ivermectin, but instead said the drugs consisted of “‘vitamins’, ‘antibiotics,’ and/or ‘steroids.’”
The complaint also alleges that the detainees were given “incredibly high doses” of the drug, causing some to experience “vision issues, diarrhea, bloody stools, and/or stomach cramps.”
Use on Other Inmates
The four plaintiffs were far from the only people to whom Karas gave ivermectin.
According to the lawsuit, the doctor began using the drug to treat COVID starting in November of 2020. In August, the Washington County sheriff confirmed at a local finance and budget committee meeting that the doctor had been prescribing the drug to inmates, prompting the Arkansas Medical Board to launch an investigation.
In response, Karas informed a Medical Board investigator in a letter from his attorney that 254 inmates at the facility had been treated with ivermectin.
In the letter, he confirmed that whether or not detainees were given information about ivermectin was dependent on who administered it, but paramedics were not required to discuss the drug with them.
He also admitted that after the practice got media coverage, he “adopted a more robust informed consent form to assuage any concern that any detainees were being misled or coerced into taking the medications, even though they weren’t.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which filed the suit on behalf of the inmates, also claimed in a statement that after questions were raised about the practice, the jail attempted to make detainees sign forms saying that they retroactively agreed to the treatments.
The WCDC has not issued a public response to the lawsuits, but Dr. Karas appeared to address the situation in a Facebook post where he defended his actions.
“Guess we made the news again this week; still with best record in the world at the jail with the same protocols,” he wrote. “Inmates aren’t dumb and I suspect in the future other inmates around the country will be suiing their facilities requesting same treatment we’re using at WCDC-including the Ivermectin.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CBS News) (NBC News)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.