30 June 2022

We need action, not words from sport following Nelson Piquet’s racist slur against Lewis Hamilton

“This is not about cancel culture, it’s about holding people accountable," says an anti-racism expert, who is urging sports to enforce proper guidelines and training.

Anti-racism expert and founder of The Anti-Racist Social Club, Hakeem S. Allen has called for actions rather than words in the wake of Nelson Piquet using a racist slur against seven-time F1 champion, Lewis Hamilton.

Piquet’s remarks, which were made last year but resurfaced on Monday, saw the retired racing driver refer to Hamilton using the N-word during a podcast. The three-time F1 champion denied making the remark, claiming that the phrase had been mistranslated. Though, he issued an apology, admitting that his remarks were “ill thought out”. “I make no defence for it, but I will clarify that the term used is one that is widely and historically been used colloquially in Brazilian Portuguese as a synonym for ‘guy’ or ‘person’ and was never intended to offend. I would never use the word I have been accused of in some translations,” he said.

While Allen says it is promising that governing bodies have denounced Piquet’s language, he points out that that’s par for the course in 2022. “What we are looking for is action. It’s not enough to say that this is ‘bad’. We have to start looking at broader things — like what is our relationship to the media outlets that released the podcast without censorship? Do governing bodies need to monitor that? Allen then suggests that sports should look into guidelines around media outlets that interact with their content, adding that it could be an opportunity for F1, and the industry writ large, to look within themselves and stop similar things from happening in the future. 

“When these things happen, it has a big impact. It’s not just language, it has real and researched mental health consequences for people that can be physical too. We need to look at the actions that organisations like this are taking.” This, he details, could include greater training for employees and media outlets, and ensuring that they complete due diligence with those they’re looking to hire or contract to avoid engaging with problematic or bad actors. “This is not about cancel culture, it’s about holding people accountable.”

The same applies to Piquet: “What’s actually going to change his behaviour? Could F1 be educating him or providing him with resources instead of applying a ban?” We need to prevent this from happening in 10 years and ensure that we’re setting up the next generation of sport to be more inclusive.’

On Tuesday, Hamilton said in a statement that “it’s more than language” and that “archaic mindsets need to change.” “I’ve been surrounded by these attitudes and targeted my whole life. There has been plenty of time to learn. Time has come for action,” he continued.

The following day, it was reported that Piquet had been slapped with a lifetime ban from the F1 paddock. Despite his apology, it is expected that this will not be revoked. 

Find out more about The Anti Racist Social Club, here.

  • Writer Nessa Humayun
  • Banner Image Credit Lewis Hamilton / Instagram

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