Formula 1 race car driver Lewis Hamilton is the latest Black athlete to find himself as the target of hateful and racist verbal attacks.
Hamilton secured his eighth British Grand Prix win on Sunday, July 18. As big as the win is for the seven-time world champion, the reaction to his victory after a gnarly collision with Dutch driver Max Verstappen on the first lap of Sunday’s race fueled even bigger reactions from critics online.
The 23-year-old Verstappen, who is the British driver’s biggest rival and came into the British Grand Prix leading the points standings for the season championship, crashed out of the race after his right rear wheel made contact with Hamilton’s left front wheel on the outside the high-speed ninth turn of the Silverstone track. Accused of dirty driving by not leaving Verstappen enough room to turn in before the apex of the corner, Hamilton was assessed a 10-second penalty during the race but still overcame that handicap to come back and win in the closing laps. Reaction was swift and furious from many observers.
Some comments clearly targeted the biracial Hamilton’s race, such as “🖕🖕🖕🖕🦍🦍🦍🦍.” Instagram and Twitter both released statements saying their teams were working to remove the hateful comments.
“In addition to our work to remove comments and accounts that repeatedly break out rules, there are safety features available, including Comment Filters and Message Controls, which can mean no one had to see this type of abuse,” said a Facebook company spokesperson.
A spokesperson for Twitter said, “We have clear abusive behavior and hateful conduct policies in place and we take enforcement of these policies very seriously. We will take decisive and swift action on any account that breaks our rules.”
Other commenters simply called the 36-year-old’s win “undeserving” without unleashing racist attacks. Hamilton is no stranger to the online slamming. As the first and only Black racer in F1 his victories have often fueled an outpouring of race-rooted hatred.
Mercedes F1 team, whom Hamilton drives for, released a statement condemning the racist attacks saying, “These people have no place in our sport and we urge that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.”
Similar sentiments were shared by fellow Formula 1 racing team Williams Racing. “There is no place for racism within our society, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with Lewis, Mercedes, and all our colleagues in F1 in our commitment to eradicating it.”
Earlier in the month racism was condemned by a member of the British Royale Family when Black members of the Europe Football team were attacked. Prince William said he was “sickened” as he and the sports world witnessed members of Europe’s team face attacks after losing to Italy in the Euro 2020.
The Black English players targeted by racial attacks were Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Sak.
“I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night’s match. It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour. It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable,” said William.
Similar to Hamilton, the three men were also shown an outpouring of support despite the overwhelming chaos caused by those fueled by racism.