Formula One (F1) racing star Lewis Hamilton has garnered much praise over this past weekend after the F1 driver chose to wear a rainbow-colored helmet at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix. In place of his usual helmet inscribed with the message “Still I Rise,” the human rights advocate wore one that prominently features the Progress Pride flag—which bears the rainbow colors of the traditional Pride flag in addition to several more colors that highlight the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. On the back, it bore the message “We Stand Together.”
Hamilton wore this design in support of the LGBTQ+ community in Qatar, which suffers much discrimination under the country’s laws criminalizing homosexuality. “I do feel that we're aware there are issues in these places that we're going to, as they're all around the world,” Hamilton says. “But of course [Qatar] seems to be deemed as one of the worst in this part of the world. I do think as the sports go to these places, they are duty-bound to raise awareness for these issues. These places need scrutiny from the media to speak about these things. Equal rights is a serious issue.”
Under Qatar’s penal code, the punishment for same-sex relations can range anywhere from one to three years in prison. Under the law, it is also technically possible for a person to be sentenced to death, although there are no reports of punishments this extreme to date. Still, individuals that identify as LGBTQIA+ continue to face considerable discrimination. Furthermore, Qatar has been identified by human rights groups as one of the countries currently trying to “sportswash” their image by using F1 events to distract attention away from human rights abuses and issues in the nation. But some athletes are trying to counteract that.
“If we are coming to these places, we need to be raising the profile of the situation,” Hamilton explains. “One person can only make a certain amount of small difference but collectively we can have a bigger impact…It’s down to whether you decide to educate yourself and hold the sport more accountable and make sure the sport is actually doing something when they go to those places.”
F1 racing star Lewis Hamilton wore a helmet featuring the rainbow colors of the Pride flag in support of LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar.
We stand together. pic.twitter.com/F3hKZwVLyN
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) November 19, 2021