Last week, three-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton asked people to “try to educate” themselves on why athletes are kneeling for the American national anthem in protest of police brutality and oppression of people of color. Not long after, he said he may join them at the U.S. Grand Prix this month.
The act of kneeling for the anthem started with NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016, and has since spread. Even in sports that have yet to see kneeling in their arenas, such as NASCAR, everybody has an opinion: Team owners Richard Petty and Richard Childress said they’d fire anyone who didn’t stand for the anthem, while driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Americans have the right to peaceful protest.
(President Donald Trump followed the NASCAR team-owner rhetoric, saying NFL owners should fire “son of a bitch” anthem protestors.)
Hamilton, who’s from the U.K. and races in a series that only visits the U.S. once a year currently, has followed and talked openly about U.S.-centric racial and political debates of late. He’s commented extensively on the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the election and actions of Trump.
He’s used Instagram to say a lot of it.
And although he’s not sure how he’ll approach the USGP, Hamilton told the Sunday Times he’s considering taking a knee when the U.S. anthem plays. From the Times:
“I’ve not even thought about that race, but of course I will have to start to think about it — what would be right for me to do, or do I even need to get involved?
“It’s not my national anthem, but the issue that is in the States … well, it’s not just in the States, it is a global thing. It’s more focused and probably at its worse perhaps in America. I think we all do need to stand together.”
Hamilton continued, via the local Austin American-Statesman:
“It’s important for everyone to stand up for what they believe in,” the Mercedes driver said. “I don’t plan on being more political, but I do feel we should all stand up and stick by what we believe in.”
Hamilton, who leads the F1 standings this year, has been hammering away at Trump for quite a while in a series of politically-charged tweets and Instagram posts, including a now-deleted video which involved a doll of President Trump.
“It is open for anyone to have freedom of speech, and I guess we can all play a role in trying to make a difference in the world,” Hamilton said prior to the Malaysia GP. “Particularly if your leader is not helping in that area.”
In response to Hamilton’s Instagram posts, Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff told Motorsport.com that his driver may need to rethink his approach to such “controversial” matters:
“This is a very controversial and polarising story,” [Wolff] said. “I wouldn’t want to get involved in politics. We all have our opinion.
“Lewis’s feelings about human rights are very strong and I think he wanted to show that and probably Instagram as the communication channel is something that he needs to rethink but I can relate to his feelings.”
Hamilton, on the other hand, can relate to the athletes being talked down upon by the U.S. president. He “identif[ies] with a lot of those individuals,” as quoted by the Austin American-Statesman.
We’ll see if he kneels with them in a few weeks, too.