What on earth does Lewis Hamilton do now. He wins Formula 1 races with ease, smashes records, fights racial inequality. Earning hundreds of millions from the sport, he uses his fame and fortune to push his agenda.
Now Formula 1, the high priests of excess and his paymasters, have added Saudi Arabia to the list of next season’s Grands Prix. An oil sated country which murders the occasional journalist and oppresses women. Their human rights record is, to many observers, utterly shameful. They treat their camels better than people.
Formula 1 and the FIA have been roundly lambasted for “sport washing”. One commentator spoke for many with ““We race as one, but when F1 can get money it doesn’t matter anymore,” his disappointment referencing Formula One’s #WeRaceAsOne anti-racism initiative that was launched earlier this year.
Since the new GP was announced Lewis – who has been everywhere in the media – has remained steadfastly silent. A compliant BBC interviewer simpered through a honey-suckled interview where Lewis pushed his anti-racist agenda. But Saudi was never mentioned. Imagine Piers Morgan letting that one go?
To be clear. Only the most Trumpian loony fringe nutter supports racism in any shape or form. Don’t ask us pasty faced white folk. Ask the black community in any city in any country – they’ll tell you whether it’s working or not. It’s not working.
If you’re a student of modern American political history, it started for my generation with the murder of JFK. A beacon of hope. They murdered Bobby and Martin Luther King six months apart. A year later they put a man on the moon. The greatest sportsman of all times was a black boxer. He had to change his name to Ali. 50 years later little has changed. Not even with a black President whose legacy was – Trump.
So all power to Lewis. But that’s the dilemma with going very public on your principals – you’ve got to live by them.
MVP: Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford has achieved an extraordinary success taking the lumbering UK government to task over free school meals – and winning. He is credible, his engagement authentic.
WTF: The Duke of Edinburgh campaigned for the World Wildlife Foundation – and blasted pheasants to feathers on royal estates.
GOAT: Without doubt Eric Liddell, the Olympic Scot who declined to run on a Sunday because of his faith and cost himself a gold medal. He won gold in the unfancied 400 and died in a Japanese prison of war camp. Because of his beliefs.
Lewis has to make it real. He didn’t win the BBC SPOTY. Didn’t make it into the world’s Top 20 most influential sportsmen last month.
He would earn the world’s true respect if he cut short his Mercedes contract talks and donated his entire salary to his charitable causes. We all know he would drive for a pound. And probably never win another race in the few years he has left if he switched teams. So take the millions and hand a whack over to groups fighting for the rights of women in Saudi Arabia.
Where – you won’t be surprised to learn – divorced women have just recently won custody of their children after years of being cast off and cast out. Female students can only now carry their phones on campus. Women over 21 can travel independently. And wow – women can now actually attend sporting events in some cities. After all, they just been allowed to drive a car.
Maybe Lewis will even see some of them at the Grand Prix. Unless he decides to stand on his principles and boycott it. Now that would be walking the talk.
Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, and a Director of Trinity Mirror publications. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. Based in Scotland, he is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives, and a media adviser.