Louisville Courier JournalPublished 2:06 PM EDT Jul 3, 2020LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Last week, Rob Ball urgently needed some rope.A vegetable farmer in eastern Jefferson County, Ball had 300 tomato plants that needed stringing and an old friend had offered to help while in town that particular Friday.So Ball paid a visit to his local Home Depot, where he hoped to buy several hundred feet of the store’s quarter-inch twisted nylon rope.To his dismay, a Home Depot salesman informed Ball of a new store policy: Customers can no longer buy rope by the foot.”My next question, of course, was, ‘Well, why not?'” Ball said. “He replied by saying, ‘Because some people have been making nooses out of them.'”‘Don’t tell my wine snob friends’: Why Americans are buying more boxed wine during COVID-19July 4th celebrations: Fireworks sales are booming nationwide due to COVID-19As protests over racial injustice have continued to rage across the country, Home Depot opted last month to remove spools of rope from the aisles of its nearly 2,000 U.S. stores.The move was indeed prompted by past incidents in which customers and employees found nooses tied on the stores’ rope spools, a Home Depot spokeswoman confirmed. Among those past incidents was the discovery of a noose at a Pittsburgh area store in 2016 and another at a store in Delaware last year. Most recently, two nooses were discovered at a store in Charlotte, North Carolina, last month.“We’ve had instances around the country where people have used rope to create hate symbols,” said Home Depot spokeswoman Margaret Smith. “We’re not going to tolerate it. So out of an abundance of caution we temporarily removed spooled rope from our aisles.”For many, the noose is more than just a loop knot. Many associate nooses with lynchings and other violence against African Americans. Between 1877 and 1934, the lynching of at least 186 African Americans took place in Kentucky, according to data compiled by The University of Washington. Just last month, the discovery of a noose in the Talladega Superspeedway garage assigned to NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, who is Black, prompted a federal investigation into the possibility of a hate crime.The FBI concluded it was not a hate crime. The noose had been there as a garage door pull since last year, long before Wallace arrived.At the local Home Depot, however, store manager Joe Autry said the company was trying to avoid such incidents with the new policy, which is still being hashed out.“We don’t want to provide anybody any opportunity to potentially be hateful with it, either in-joke or, obviously, in a serious nature,” said Autry, adding that customers can still buy prepackaged rope either in a bag or on a spool.Ball, who is white, said that wasn’t the case for him. He wasn’t allowed to purchase a whole spool when he asked to do so and said he felt accused of being a racist. “I feel it’s a little ridiculous – ludicrous — that that would be a policy put in place to solve a racial issue,” Ball said. “I don’t think stopping the sale of cut rope or/and spools of rope is going to solve that.”It’s been an already tough year for the 28-year-old Ball. After a stint as a sustainable agriculture volunteer for the Peace Corps in Senegal, Ball said he decided to try his hand this year at vegetable growing on the family farm. But lockdowns caused by the pandemic have resulted in restaurants canceling their orders for Ball’s greens, he said. To stay afloat, he has increasingly turned to direct-to-consumer sales and to farmers markets.“I was just trying to tie tomatoes up,” Ball said earlier this week after completing another round of deliveries to his customers.But he thinks back to what the farmers he worked with in Senegal might do in his shoes.“They would probably just make their own if it came down to that,” said Ball, noting how some Senegalese farmers braid rope from the bark of local trees. “They probably wouldn’t call the paper and make such a fuss out of it.”Reach reporter Alfred Miller at email@example.com or 502-582-7142. Follow him on Twitter @AlfredFMiller. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.