SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — F1 champion Lewis Hamilton is not considering a boycott of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix in the way other athletes have done to protest racism in the United States after the shooting of Jacob Blake by police officers in Wisconsin.
The NBA postponed three scheduled playoff games on Wednesday, with the Milwaukee Bucks kicking off the boycott by refusing to leave their locker room for the game against the Orlando Magic. Players and teams in baseball, soccer and tennis also sat out events, demanding that lawmakers act to address police brutality and racial injustice.
Hamilton, a six-time Formula One champion and the only Black driver in the sport, said he supported the boycotts but that similar measures in Europe wouldn’t have the same impact.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) August 27, 2020
“Firstly I think it’s incredible what many out there in the States are doing within their sports. So many people are standing with the players and really pushing for change,” Hamilton said Thursday at a news conference. “But that is in America and I don’t know if me doing anything here will particularly help … we’re in Belgium, we’re not in the United States.”
Hamilton, who has announced plans for a diversity council in F1, has regularly spoken out against racism in recent weeks and also has marched in London following the killing of George Floyd – an unarmed Black man – by a police officer in Minneapolis in May.
Hamilton and other drivers have taken a knee at every race so far this season in a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. He has also worn t-shirts with “End Racism” printed on them, organized prerace driver displays, raised his right fist on the podium, and called out other F1 drivers and teams for being too silent on racism.
Went down to Hyde Park today for the peaceful protest and I was so proud to see in person so many people of all races and backgrounds supporting this movement. It was really moving. I’m feeling extremely positive that change will come, but we cannot stop now. #blacklivesmatter ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/koOTEPOXAh
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) June 21, 2020
Blake, 29, was shot by police officers, apparently in the back, on Sunday as he leaned into his SUV, three of his children seated inside. The shooting was captured on cellphone video and ignited new protests in the U.S. three months after the death of Floyd.
“I haven’t spoken to anybody about (the boycotts), but I am really proud of so many out there and I do stand unified with them, trying to do what I can over here,” Hamilton said. “I don’t really know how us not doing the race (will help), it will still go on is the thing. I’ll try to speak to Formula One to see what else we can do to continue to raise awareness.”
Mercedes also has switched from its traditional silver-colored cars to all-black this season in solidarity with Hamilton and to continue pushing the fight against racism.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who has taken the knee alongside Hamilton at all six F1 races so far, was also asked if he would consider boycotting a race.
“I don’t think it makes much sense now to go as far as that because nothing is on the table, or there’s no reason to boycott a race,” Vettel said. “The measures that have been taken in the U.S. with some players boycotting – or going on strike and not going out for the games – I think they are more U.S.-specific. We seem to be quite happy as drivers of our actions, and want to keep sending that message.”