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.
Mike Fulp, 55, owner of the half-mile red-clay oval, posted an ad promising Bubba ropes as part of a “Stand for America” promotion at 311 Speedway that would honor and reaffirm support for the Confederate flag.
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. An FBI investigation ruled that the noose at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama had not targeted Wallace, who led the successful banning of Confederate flags at NASCAR races.
311, which bills itself as “the Daytona of Dirt,” immediately drew condemnation and lost sponsors and advertisers in the wake of the ad.
The Carolina Sprint Tour announced on Facebook that it no longer would hold events at 311.
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.
Now Fulp says he is sorry for it all and that he has only himself to blame. He says the promotion was both a very bad joke “that backfired” — and an unfortunate coincidence.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. Fulp has posted blatantly racist posts on social media before, including a joke about the killing of George Floyd.
Among those who objected to Fulp’s ad was a group of about 25 members of “Justice for the Next Generation,” who arrived at 311 Speedway on Saturday, led by the Rev. Greg Drumwright. They were met by speedway staff members touting AR 15-style rifles.
Still, they protested for about 90 minutes, holding signs that read, “Take Your Knee Offa Our Necks’’ and “Black Lives Matter.’’ And eventually, Fulp came out to talk to them.
“I made a mistake, and I’m sorry. I don’t want nobody hurt, man, I don’t want nobody hurt ...,’’ Fulp, while crying, told Drumwright.
“Let’s pray for you because you’re hurtin’,’’ Drumwright said. Fulp shook the hand of each protester and they all prayed together. All around, these were gracious gestures.
Drumwright later said many people are skeptical about Fulp’s apology, which he found convenient. “But as a minister, it is not my place to make judgment about people’s sincerity. When people ask for forgiveness ... their next step is to turn to the ways you are repenting from. So what we would be looking for from Mike extends beyond an apology. It goes into a real change.”
Fulp says he’s ended all of his activity on social media. He says he intends to cooperate with state regulations that limit crowd sizes at events to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
So maybe he has learned a painful lesson.
Maybe his encounter with the protesters at his track really did touch his heart.
We certainly 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 not the threats against Fulp’s life; that’s going too far.)
As an overdue reckoning on race appears to happening in this country, Fulp recklessly pushed against the wall of common decency.
And the wall pushed back.