BEFORE winning the recent Bahrain F1, which kicked off the 2021 Formula One season, Lewis Hamilton swore to continue supporting the equal rights movement sparked by the death of George Floyd, who, while already in police custody, was kneed to death last year by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Chauvin is now facing murder charges in a high-profile trial gripping the world. Floyd’s death triggered pro-democracy stirrings in the 2020 NBA bubble, with LeBron James taking an active stance.
Who said sports is apolitical?
Not to James, the greatest basketball player today, who is as vocal as Hamilton, the seven-time F1 champion going for a record eighth crown this year, in bannering anti-racism worldwide. Like Floyd, James and Hamilton are black.
Hamilton, aged 36 like James, greeted the F1 season with oblique hits against countries like Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia of using sports to project “a favorable image” amid societal issues.
The Associated Press quotes Hamilton as saying: “I don’t think that we should be going to these countries and ignoring what is happening in those places, arriving, having a great time and then leave... Human rights shouldn’t be a political issue. We all deserve equal rights...”
Hamilton dropped a bomb when he bared three letters he had received from alleged pro-democracy victims describing their harrowing experiences of torture, extreme beatings and sexual abuse--Mohammed Ramadhan, Najah Yusuf and Ali AlHajee.
Ramadhan, in death row, claims he was framed in a murder charge after supporting Bahrain’s pro-democracy protests and beaten with iron bars to extract his confession.
Yusuf, a mother of four, detailed to Hamilton abuses she’d suffered at the hands of officers from Bahrain’s National Security Agency.
AlHajee is in Jau Prison, which is located near the Sakhir’s F1 racetrack, after organizing pro-democracy protests.
“Those weighed quite heavily on me,” Hamilton said. “It was the first time that I’d received letters like that along my travels.”
He said he’d bring the cases to Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
When asked about it in the presser, Hamilton said: “At the moment I think the steps that I’ve taken really have been in private, and I think that’s the right way to go about it. So I don’t really want to say too much that may jeopardize any progress.”
The guy’s got balls. That’s for sure.