One of the most extraordinary things about 2020 is witnessing the Black Lives Matter movement move to a huge national and international conversation. It’s incredible to see BLM move to a national dialogue in America, but to see brown and black people across the world use the BLM movement to address racism internationally is huge too. So it is with Lewis Hamilton, a Black British Formula One driver/racer who is part of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Lewis is widely regarded as one of the best and most popular F1 drivers, and he’s always winning British and international sporting awards.
During yesterday’s F1 race, Lewis wore an “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” t-shirt on the podium and during press. He also kneeled during a pre-race ceremony which was dedicated to anti-racism. There were… immediate calls for Lewis to be investigated within Formula One. There were immediate calls for F1 to clarify whether their drivers could wear a “political” t-shirt when they were supposed to be shilling for their sponsors. Well, good news, I guess? Lewis Hamilton will not be “formally investigated” but F1 is going to “clarify” their rules about political or anti-racist attire:
The FIA will not launch a formal investigation into Lewis Hamilton’s wearing of a T-shirt at the Tuscan GP about the shooting of Breonna Taylor. Having considered the matter on Monday to examine its rules, clarified guidelines will be issued to drivers about arrangements for pre and post-race activities, including what may and may not be worn.
Hamilton wore the top during F1’s anti-racism ceremony before the race, when he took a knee, and then again in his immediate post-race interview and on the podium. The front of Hamilton’s shirt featured the words ‘Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor’, while the back contained her picture below the words ‘say her name’.
Hamilton has shed light on issues of racial injustice and had previously worn a T-shirt with the message ‘Black Lives Matter’ at F1’s pre-race ceremonies, when the drivers have gathered at the front of the grid to show their support in the fight against racism.
I mean… F1 thought they could do a thing about “anti-racism” but there was still some concern about one of their drivers making a “political statement” with a t-shirt? It’s kind of funny. Corporations see the benefit of embracing a sanitized and vague anti-racism message, but if their employees or independent contractors make a more specific statement about racism – say, that the cops who murdered Breonna Taylor should be arrested – there will be repercussions and clarifications and perhaps even an informal investigation.
Imagine F1 organizing this video and then freaking out when one of their drivers actually uses his platform to talk about a specific case.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 2, 2020
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) September 13, 2020
Photos courtesy of Getty.