The Wall Street Journal named Lewis Hamilton as their first-ever Sports Innovator and published a big interview focusing on his work to promote diversity.
Wall Street Journal has decided to name Lewis Hamilton as their first-ever Sports Innovator as part of their 2021 Innovators Awards. The awards ceremony will be held virtually and in-person in New York City, on November 1.
For this occasion WSJ Magazine published an extensive interview focusing on Lewis’ quest to increase diversity in motorsport and bring about social change.
In the piece Lewis spoke of the time he wore a black T-shirt with the inscription that read “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” on the front, and an image of Taylor on the back, along with the words “Say her name”, before and after the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix.
Taylor was shot and killed by the police in her home in March of the same year. Lewis said he knew during the race that he had to win, so that his message can have the biggest impact.
“I can’t be second, Lewis said, “I’m wearing that shirt; I’ve got to get to first to bring light to her name.”
Hamilton reveals he also knew he could be causing problems for himself once he steps onto the podium with the shirt.
“I get these nerves like, ‘Shoot, I’m about to break the rules and people aren’t going to be happy with it’.”
Well the FIA was quick to react as they banned drivers from wearing unofficial clothing during the podium ceremony, immediately after the incident.
“Well, they’ve changed a lot of rules after a lot of things that I’ve done,” Lewis says.
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The Briton went on to talk about his experience of being the only black driver to reach the top of Formula 1.
“My dad and I would watch people like Tiger [Woods] who kind of broke the mold, and we watched in admiration. The Williams sisters also did the same.
“We’re like, ‘Oh, if we could do something like that, that’s going to help change the industry moving forward’. ”
However, the journey wasn’t easy. Lewis recalls the time when certain fans mocked him by wearing ‘blackface’ make-up and T-Shirts with inscriptions that read “Hamilton’s Family”, in Sapain in 2008.
“I remember the pain that I felt that day, but I didn’t say anything about it; I didn’t have anyone. No one said anything.
“I saw people continuing in my industry and staying quiet.”
His experiences led to his quest to try to increase diversity in Formula 1 and beyond.
“Most people know my journey into F1 and my experience being the first Formula One driver of colour.
“Being in motorsport, I often looked around me and wondered why I was one of the very few people of colour, and it is not just about drivers but job opportunities for mechanics, engineers, marketing and accounting.
“As I grew more successful, I thought that me being at the front would open more doors to black talent, but at the end of 2019, I was in Abu Dhabi and I was looking at team photos…
“I zoomed in on them, from the F1 Instagram. I’ve been here 15 years, 14 years—how has it not changed? I was really sad about it. I was frustrated and sad.”
“That’s when I knew that I needed to do more and where the idea for the Hamilton Commission came from, however, with the extensive research from the team, we realised it is not just the motorsport industry that needs to change.
“We found there are still systemic issues facing young black people at all levels of the education system that need to be addressed.
“So we have developed 10 final recommendations to address the issue of diversity in UK motorsport.
“From this report, I hope we can make long-lasting meaningful progress. We have to ensure that these findings do not go ignored.”
Hamilton also recalled asking the CEO of Monster Energy, his long-time sponsor, about these issues.
“Where are you guys at? How are you guys holding yourself accountable? How can we work together?
“If one says, ‘No, we’re totally fine; we don’t need to do it, I won’t be working with them.”
Mercedes has been right there supporting Lewis in his quest and created several initiatives aimed at increasing diversity in the sport. The team even painted their car black in 2020 and 2021, to highlight the issues or racial injustice.
Team boss Toto Wolff said he believes these issues would probably have been pursued by the team regardless at some point, but not on such a big scale.
“Maybe initiatives would have taken place, but certainly not in the dimension that Lewis triggered,” the Austrian said.
Lewis, however doesn’t think there’d be any serious changes in the sport, had he not been so vocal.
“I’m pretty sure that nothing would’ve changed,” the Briton said.
“I’m 36 years old; I’ve been wondering, Why me? Why am I the only Black driver that’s got through to Formula 1, and not only that—I’m at the front?
“There’s got to be a bigger reason for me being here,” concluded the seven-time champion.