Back in February, the Lotus F1 team's often irreverent Twitter account shot out a tweet pronouncing its support of gay athletes at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The tweet was deleted, and Lotus apologized for the "unauthorised" tweet. Now its former brand director is saying he was fired for it.
The Lotus F1 account was generally regarded, at least by us, as one of the best in the business for its humor and willingness to poke a sharp stick at the oft-arcane and nonsensical world of Formula One regulations.
Lotus Group Brand Director Stephane Samson was the genius behind it all, and he did a pretty swell job at it. But after the tweet went up on February 7th, it all seemed to go downhill, and Lotus' Russian investors were possibly behind it, as it was noted at the time:
The real reason it went down, according to the Beeb, is because it pissed off Lotus F1's owners, the investment group Genii Capital, who have significant business interests in Russia. It also apparently angered their new backer, Russian smartphone maker YotaPhone, who are poised to buy a 10 percent share in the team.
By March 1st, it was announced that Samson had left the team. The circumstances seemed pretty clear, though it was unclear whether or not Samson quit voluntarily because of the incident, or whether he was fired.
Today Samson went to Twitter to tell the world what happened, and he said it was exactly because of that tweet:
"Lotus = Putin" is definitely a strong start, but Samson wasn't done:
And now, he's starting a campaign against his former employers:
If the allegations are true, it's an incredibly sad situation not only for Lotus, but for all of sports. Firing someone for using a team's irreverent social media account to support human rights in a country like Russia is pretty unconscionable in today's day and age.
And before someone jumps in to say that Samson was fired for tweeting something sexual at all, no matter what it was about, before his departure Lotus was known for delightful little tweets like this one, and the team seemingly had no problem with it:
Obviously, accusing your former employer of firing you for expressing support of gay rights in Russia is a pretty serious charge. We've reached out to the Lotus F1 team for comment.