As various social distancing measures that have been imposed because of the global pandemic eases down, many professional leagues that had been put to a halt have resumed. This week, Formula One, the largest motorsport league, began its first race of the season in Australia.
However, even before the first engines were revved up, there was a tense moment as the 20 drivers who participated in this race gathered in front of the grid. While 14 racers, including F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, kneeled prior to the race, the remaining 6 didn’t.
All the racers were wearing a t-shirt that read “End Racism” while Hamilton wore a shirt that explicitly said “Black Lives Matter”. Hamilton has been very vocal in using his large online following to address racial and social injustice.
The 6 drivers who did not participate in the kneeling all had their own explanations. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc explained his behavior via his Twitter account.
Leclerc emphasized that all the drivers, including those who refused to kneel down, were all in support of the anti-racism message that has been embraced by Formula 1 and the Motorsports Association.
However, the driver said that real change is brought by changing the thoughts and actions in everyday life, not through a largely symbolic message. Once again underlining that he will join the fight against racism, Leclerc said he will not kneel because the gesture can be controversial in some countries.
Max Verstappen, another driver who refused to kneel down, shared Leclerc’s sentiment. He said while he is absolutely supportive of ending inequality, he said that he also believes in the liberty of everyone including the drivers.
Although the drivers who refused to take a knee clearly stated that they supported the cause of ending racism, the visual of some standing while others kneeled did send a rather powerful message.
It was most likely not an image that the executives of Formula One imagined when they very publicly announced that they will operate under the slogan of “We Race as One”, a direction that is very much aimed at appeasing the fans who are sensitive over this very issue.
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