The only Black Formula 1 driver received racist comments, including monkey emojis and racial epithets, after winning first place in a race
The only Black Formula 1 driver, Lewis Hamilton, received racist attacks online after winning a race on Sunday.
Hamilton — who often uses his platform to bring awareness about racism and social justice issues — was the victim of online harassment after crashing into competitor Max Verstappen before his first-place win in the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
The accident sent Verstappen out of the race and to the hospital.
A slew of racist taunts were aimed at Hamilton, 36, on a celebratory Instagram post by his team, Mercedes-AMG-Petronas, after the win. Formula 1, the International Automobile Federation, and his team, denounced the remarks in a joint statement on Twitter.
Hamilton relayed delicate sentiments towards the accident in an Instagram post after the race, stating “Today is a reminder of the dangers we face in this sport and we should never take lightly the risks,” he also added, “I send my best wishes to Max who is an incredible competitor and I’m glad to hear he is ok. I will always race hard but always fairly.”
Hamilton also expressed his gratitude towards the sport, stating that “it’s a dream to win in front of my home crowd” and to “never give up, keep rising, keep fighting.”
Sky Sports, a British-based sports subscription television service, reported that the nature of the commentaries included the usage of “monkey emojis” and other racial slurs directed at Hamilton. According to CBS News, a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, called the actions “unacceptable” and removed a number of comments from the post.
“No single thing will fix this challenge overnight but we’re committed to the work to keep our community safe from abuse,” said a spokesperson from the platform.
Verstappen, who was cleared from the hospital on Sunday, reprimanded Hamilton’s actions, calling his move on the track “dangerous.” The Belgian-Dutch driver also called Hamilton’s post-race celebration “unsportsmanlike behavior,” categorizing it as braggadocios.
Other F1 teams, like McLaren and Aston Martin, extended supportive messages to Hamilton.
Combatting racism within and surrounding Formula 1 is not a new occurrence for the competition. In 2020, when the organization first revealed its campaigns to improve the diversity within racing culture, the former chief executive officer Bernie Ecclestone made disparaging about the F1’s efforts and Black individuals, stating that Black people are often “more racist than what white people are.”
Formula 1 discredited Ecclestone’s comments and stated that his honorary title as ‘chairman emeritus’ was expired effectively.
Hamilton has also spearheaded many anti-racism campaigns amidst the racing community, including spreading awareness about racial injustice, speaking out against systematic racism, and taking a knee in honor of the political demonstration started by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Recently, he has openly spoken about racism in regards to the George Floyd protests, wore a shirt calling for the police that killed Breonna Taylor to be arrested, and kneeling with 14 other F1 drivers before the start of the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix in July 2020.
The racist attacks come a week after three Black British soccer players were targeted with racial abuse online after missing penalty kicks during England’s European Championship shootout against Italy. This prompted the English Football Association to issue a statement condemning the language used against the players.
Hamilton told reporters in November 2020, that he will continue using his position as a star athlete to encourage more diversity in his sport, amongst other things.
“I don’t feel I’m finished,” he said. “If one young kid sees me doing it and doing it well — and realizing that I started in the same humble beginnings as them — maybe by seeing me, hopefully, that encourages them.”
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