Lewis Hamilton wants broadcasters to support the fight against racism and discrimination by building educational messages into their F1 coverage. The Mercedes driver is leading F1’s stand against prejudice as he pushes for equality in the sport and beyond.
Hamilton is devising a commission in his name to investigate the lack of diversity in motorsport and provide opportunities to people from a wider array of backgrounds going forward.
The 35-year-old has taken a knee – along with most of his rivals – prior to the first five races of the 2020 campaign and been outspoken on the importance of the symbolic gesture of solidarity.
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Hamilton’s efforts convinced F1 chiefs and the FIA to make the ‘End Racism’ message – including vows from drivers to fight discrimination – a formal part of their race-day schedule at Grand Prix weekends.
And the Brit, who says parents and the “older generation” can help turn the tide against racism, wants broadcasters to step up by making changes to their programming.
“I think as a sport, we have this platform, we have people that tune in and watch,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. “Yes, it’s supposed to be an entertaining experience, but there’s no reason why there can’t be an element of it that is educating.
“I’ve gone home and watched the Grand Prix on a weekend and you have hours to take up, so some people are just talking for ages or playing remote control cars in the paddock. But you could actually be teaching people something. It is about educating these kids.”
Hamilton says his own experiences of racism as a youngster have been a driving force behind the success he has enjoyed in F1.
He is urging people to call out discrimination, whether or not they are directly on the receiving end of it.
“We’re all learning, during this time, I’ve been learning,” said Hamilton. “I’ve been doing a lot of reading about history, stuff that we weren’t taught at school, things that I was completely unaware of. So it’s been the most educational year of my life.
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“Like you [Sky Sports F1 presenter Karun Chandhok] and so many people around the world that have been subject to abuse, generally, stay quiet. Someone around them perhaps doesn’t stand up and say: ‘That’s not cool’. Some people probably feel uncomfortable. Those who are receiving abuse just take it.
“I was always the fighter. I was like: ‘I’m getting in the punch up’. It always just boiled me so deeply and I was always in trouble. Always in the headmaster’s office because I would defend myself. I was in a school that was predominantly white. The headmaster would never understand or even empathise with what I just experienced.
“So I had all this built up and that’s what I’ve channeled into my driving my whole life. As I get older, particularly this year, I realise part of the strength that I have is that I channeled that difficult time that I had into my driving.
“My Dad would always say: ‘Do your talking on the track’. When I wanted to react, my Dad held me back and said: ‘Do your talking on the track’. That wasn’t easy. Today the whole experience has brought up a lot of those old emotions and I really feel and empathise for those out there, from all different backgrounds, that have experienced [discrimination], felt like they couldn’t say anything, whether it’s in your workplace, whether it’s in school, whether it’s hanging with your friends.
“I just want to encourage people to speak out. Even if it’s not you that’s on the receiving end but you see it happen to someone or someone’s saying a sexist comment. You say: ‘That’s not cool’ and that’s going to help people educate themselves.”
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