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NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace shares painful, childhood story about police shooting his cousin

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NASCAR driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. joined this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download podcast and spoke about race in the sport and fellow drivers speaking out — or not – about racial injustices and police brutality.

In addition to talking with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and podcast co-host Mike Davis about his reaction to Ahmaud Arbery being fatally shot while jogging in Georgia and Kyle Larson using the N-word in April, Wallace opened up about some ways in which he’s been discriminated against.

He also shared the story of police shooting his cousin in 2003. The 26-year-old driver of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet said he first talked to his mom about sharing this story “because I wanted to bring it up.”

Wallace was nine years old when he was at his sister’s basketball tournament, although he said he can’t remember where exactly. He explained on the Dale Jr. Download:

“I was running around the gym with all the other brothers and sisters there, and all of a sudden, I hear a scream — like the worst scream that you’d want to hear. Not like a somebody-scared-you scream, like something bad had just happened. And I look over and I see my mom running out the door, and we had just found out my cousin had been shot and killed by a police officer. Unarmed.

“And so I was young. I didn’t understand it. We lost a family member. But now seeing everything come full circle, I totally get it now.”

He continued to share the story of the shooting and said it stemmed from a white store clerk feeling threatened by a group of black people.

“They had just left somewhere — a football game or something. He was [19], and they all went to a gas station here in Knoxville, Tennessee. Playing loud music, it was a whole crowd, a hang-out spot. … But the store clerk, who happened to be white, felt threatened that there was more African Americans and that something bad was going to happen. So she called the cops, and the police officer had ordered my cousin, Sean, to put his hands up, and he did.

“And then that officer walked away, and [my cousin] went to grab his phone to call his mom because he was scared and was shot and killed from the other police officer. And it’s like all because people were having a good time, not bothering somebody but somehow, people are afraid. Why are you afraid of black people? That’s just the thing I don’t understand. Like, we’re minding our own business, we’re having a good time, and somebody’s life was taken, and it happened to my family member. And I’ve never shared that story.

“I remember in fourth grade, I was crying, I had gotten let out of class for it. But now, truly understanding it, it definitely hurts a lot more now that I can decipher what really went on into it. [They] said he was reaching for a gun and he wasn’t. So that’s tough. I’ve dealt with that. That’s indirectly, but it’s family.”

From a legal standpoint, Wallace did not mention more specifics about what happened after his cousin was killed. But NBC Sports reported that a judge eventually cleared the officer in the shooting, and the family lost a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Knoxville.

However, Wallace did then open up about one of his experiences with police profiling him. More from the Alabama native on the Dale Jr. Download:

“I’ve dealt with my struggles, you know, directly of getting pulled up at stoplights … and having guns drawn — not pointed at me but they’re out of their holster ready to do something. And that moment, being pulled out in front of and turning on your hazards is a sign that you’re slow and I need to go around you. But when it’s undercover cops, you can’t do that. And when it’s tinted windows, they don’t know what to expect, so they’re ready for anything. So one wrong move, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today.

“And then the comments after — and this is where we can help so many people — it’s the comments that they made towards me that piss me off the most. ‘Can you afford this car? This is a nice car.’ And I said, ‘Yes, sir, I can.’

“And what I wanted to say is, ‘Yeah, I’ll have you one here Monday, I’ll have your momma here one on Tuesday and I’ll have the rest of your family [one] here on Wednesday because that’s how much money I make.’ But I didn’t. I let it go because one wrong move, because I’m black, could have had me on the pavement saying, ‘I can’t breathe.'”

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