Lewis Hamilton Defends F1 Racers Refusing to Take a Knee
Clad in a statement shirt with ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the front, Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton took a knee ahead of the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.
BBC reports that the sport’s first and only black racer was joined by 13 of his F1 rivals, while six drivers refused to participate in the gesture popularized by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
Notably, Hamilton was also the only driver to sport the BLM message on his shirt, while the others wore black shirts with ‘End Racism’ adorning the front.
Not About Politics
While the statement ‘End Racism’ is clear in its intentions, several organizations have raised concerns that the larger Black Lives Matter movement may have been hijacked by extremists to push their own political agenda, which goes above and beyond eradicating systemic racism.
For his part, Hamilton made it a point to wash his hands off of politics. Taking a knee and wearing a BLM shirt, he says, is simply his way of supporting equality.
“I may get criticism in the media and elsewhere, but this fight is about equality, not politics or promotion,” the F1 driver wrote on Instagram. “To me, it was an emotional and poignant chapter in the progress of making F1 a more diverse and inclusive sport.”
To Each His Own
On the other hand, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc told Sky News that his decision not to take the knee does not mean he’s any less committed to the fight against racial oppression.
“I believe that what matters are facts and behaviours in our daily life rather than formal gestures that could be seen as controversial in some countries,” he said.
To this, Hamilton could only agree. He urged F1 fans to refrain from condemning those who remained standing while he and 13 others took a knee.
“It’s still a really powerful message but whether or not you kneel is not going to change the world,” he said.
The racer explained that he is not comfortable about lecturing others or forcing them to do anything they don’t want to do.
“Nobody should be forced into a scenario where they have to kneel,” the 35-year-old said. “I never requested or demanded for anyone to take a knee. I never brought it up.”