Formula One has used ending racism as a primary plank in promoting its 2020 season, but its ruling body is considering whether to sanction six-time champion Lewis Hamilton for wearing a Breonna Taylor shirt in an anti-racism display before and after his most recent victory.
Sky Sports and several other outlets reported Monday that the FIA is exploring whether Hamilton’s shirt, which read “Arrest The Cops Who Killed Breonna Taylor” on the front and “Say Her Name” on the back, broke any rules relating to political statements or gestures at races.
Taylor, a Black 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was killed March 13 in Louisville, Kentucky, after police officers attempted to serve a no-knock search warrant. Taylor’s boyfriend, who fired on police after he said they didn’t identify themselves, was arrested, but the charges were dropped. No one has been charged in Taylor’s death during the botched raid.
After winning Sunday’s first F1 race at the Mugello circuit in Italy, Hamilton ended his first postrace interview with “Justice for Breonna Taylor” and stood on the podium in the T-shirt, which he had tweeted a photo of and also worn during prerace.
“It took me a long time to get that shirt,” Hamilton said afterward, according to The Associated Press. “I’ve been wanting to wear that and bring awareness to the fact that there’s people that have been killed on the street and there’s someone that got killed in her own house.”
Hamilton, the only Black champion in Formula One, has been among the most outspoken athletes in the world about social justice this year. He announced plans to create a diversity council in June, has spoken out often about racism and marched with Black Lives Matter protesters in London’s Hyde Park.
He also has been instrumental in organizing prerace protests with his fellow drivers before every F1 race this year. He took a knee while wearing the Taylor shirt before Sunday’s victory.
Hamlin also called out F1 and its drivers earlier this season for needing to do more to stamp out racism.
“All I could say is we’re not doing nearly enough,” Hamilton said after a July 19 victory in Hungary. “I think ultimately it’s still individuals thinking it’s not important.”
His Mercedes-AMG Petronas team has been at the forefront by running an all-black paint scheme as “a stand against racism and discrimination in all forms and a public pledge to further improve the diversity of our team and our sport.”
Mercedes principal Toto Wolff was quoted by the BBC as saying last weekend that Hamilton had the team’s full support to protest racism as he saw fit. Wolff said:
No question – it is entirely his decision. Whatever he does, we will support. The team is fighting against any kind of racism and discrimination and it is Lewis’s personal fight for Black Lives Matter and with all the support we can give him. It’s his call.