Mercedes can breathe a sigh of relief.
F1 champ Lewis Hamilton told ESPN that he has no plans to kneel during the national anthem at Saturday’s Grand Prix race in Austin, Texas. But he also praised Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who started the protests, and said the best way he can show his solidarity is to win the race.
“I don’t really have a position and I don’t have any plans” to kneel, the three-time F1 champ said.
“I’ve posted about it because I respect it highly and I find the movement that Kaepernick started is awesome. I’m very much in support of it. I am here to win and that is part of my priority at the moment and what I am focused on at the moment.”
Hamilton caused a stir with social media posts that support Kaepernick. When he hinted that he might kneel for the anthem, that set off a firestorm. His team, Mercedes, bluntly told him to stay out of politics, and Hamilton hinted that Mercedes made him take down one of his more controversial posts.
Through it all, his support of Kaepernick has not wavered.
“Particularly with Kaepernick, sacrificing his career for the greater good, just that alone is admirable. Then that kinda puts me on the spot, like ‘what do I do’… but, to be continued.”
Hamilton has previously said, “It’s not my national anthem, but the issue that is in the States … well, it’s not just in the States, it is a global thing. It’s more focused and probably at its worse perhaps in America. I think we all do need to stand together,” Hamilton, a native of Britain and the first black driver in Formula 1 history, told the Sunday Times of London.
Mercedes, the team he drives for, has already said he shouldn’t kneel.
“This is a very controversial and polarizing story,” Mercedes executive Toto Wolff was quoted as saying in Autoweek.“I wouldn’t want to get involved in politics. We all have our opinion.”
“Lewis’s feelings about human rights are very strong and I think he wanted to show that and probably Instagram as the communication channel is something that he needs to rethink but I can relate to his feelings,” he said.
Hamilton created controversy when he placed an offensive photo of a dog performing a sex act on a doll that resembles Donald Trump. Hamilton has been a frequent Trump critic.
Hamilton has already caused a stir by supporting the anthem protests here in the United States ans asking fans to “educate themselves” on the history of taking a knee.
“It’s important for everyone to stand up for what they believe in,” said Hamilton, who was born in the United Kingdom. “I don’t plan on being more political, but I do feel we should all stand up and stick by what we believe in. It is open for anyone to have freedom of speech, and I guess we can all play a role in trying to make a difference in the world. Particularly if your leader is not helping in that area.”
For this weekend, at least, Hamilton plans to focus on racing.