The proprietor of a Stokes County dirt race track has had second thoughts about a “Bubba Rope” promotion he cheerfully posted recently in a tasteless and dramatically ill-timed ad on Facebook.
The post followed the June 21 discovery of a noose in the garage of Bubba Wallace, the only black driver in stock car racing’s major league, the Cup Series.
The ad promised Bubba ropes as part of “Stand for America” promotion at 311 Speedway that would honor and reaffirm support for the Confederate flag.
Mike Fulp, 55, owner of the half-mile red-clay oval, says the promotion was both a very bad joke “that backfired” — and an unfortunate coincidence.
Whether you believe that is up to you. A lot of people didn’t.
311, which bills itself as “The Daytona of Dirt,” immediately drew condemnation and lost sponsors in the wake of the ad.
The Carolina Sprint Tour announced on Facebook that it no longer would hold events at the track.
Facebook commenters who said they were regular patrons of Fulp’s track also criticized the post.
The Governor’s Office called it “horrific and shameful.”
And even the Florida-based manufacturer of BubbaRope (there actually is such a thing) disavowed any connection to the promotion, noting that Fulp had never bought the product from them and that the product is much costlier than the $9.99 Fulp advertised.
(Fulp told the News & Record he has four of the synthetic winch lines, which he did intend to sell. But it’s nearly impossible to believe that the wordplay behind the brand name/promotion, in light of the Talladega incident, was a coincidence.)
The ad post appeared one day after an FBI investigation ruled that the noose at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama had not targeted Wallace, who led the successful push to ban Confederate flags at NASCAR races.
Now Fulp says he’s sorry for it all and that he has only himself to blame.
“I am not a racist,” he said.
The episode “breaks my heart, man,” Fulp said. “Because I see a lot of hate. I don’t want nobody to hate me. I’m not a bad dude.”
We’ll see. At least Fulp appears to be a smarter dude.
Fulp says he has ended all of his activity on social media. He recounted as well a tender moment he said he had with a young Black protester Saturday night. The girl, about the age of his granddaughter, grabbed his hand, Fulp said.
“She said, ‘I don’t hate you,” he told The News & Observer of Raleigh. “I looked at her, and said, ‘I don’t hate you either.’ ”
Fulp even repented on his resistance to state regulations that limit crowd sizes at events to prevent the spread of COVID-19, saying he intends to honor those requirements going forward.
But his troubling history of blatantly racist posts on social media makes you wonder.
In one since-deleted post that was provided by a commenter via screenshot, Fulp wrote: “We’ve really been bad people. I think we should give (Black people) a bucket of Kentucky Fried chicken, 2 watermelons and a plane ride back to Africa.’’
Another found humor in the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, while being arrested by Minneapolis police.
Accompanied by a photo of Floyd, who died last month as an officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck, the post noted: “Congratulation (sic), George .... 2 weeks drug free.’’
So, maybe Mike Fulp is chastened by the blistering response to his behavior, which, in racing parlance, “blowed up” on the internet, and beyond, making national headlines.
Maybe he has learned a painful lesson.
Maybe the sudden loss of business has shaken him.
Maybe his encounter with that young Black protester at his track really did touch his heart.
We can only hope so.
But much more certain is the overwhelming disapproval of the business community, the racing community and the general public — none of whom found anything funny in death and racism. (But threats against the lives of Fulp’s and his family go too far.)
“I’m responsible,” Fulp said. “I’m responsible for trying to make some jokes. But the world is mad as hell right now.”
As an overdue reckoning on race appears to be happening in this country, Fulp recklessly pushed against the wall of common decency.
And this time the wall pushed back.