British press fury over Hamilton hate site

Lewis Hamilton was the target of racial abuse earlier this year

Lewis Hamilton was the target of racial abuse earlier this year

Several of the major British newspapers are reporting today about a Spanish-registered website set up to direct taunts at Lewis Hamilton. Here’s a typical example of the coverage from The Sun:

F1 ace Lewis Hamilton is facing another vile race hate campaign from Spanish yobs as he prepares to win the drivers’ title.

Racist abuse of Hamilton (and many other sporting personalities) on the Internet is, sadly, nothing new. So why has this website been singled out?

As anyone who’s searched for a Lewis Hamilton video on YouTube or put his name into a search engine will know, there is a huge amount of hate aimed at him from some quarters. Much of it comes from Fernando Alonso’s fans, responding to the rivalry between the two last year, and the conspiracy theory that McLaren impaired Alonso’s ability to contest Hamilton for the championship.

Over the winter racist taunting of Hamilton during a test at the Circuit de Catalunya and the suggestion that Hamilton had been the subject of racist abuse in Shanghai prompted the FIA to set up the ‘Everyrace’ campaign to condemn racism in motor sport. Since its inception, very little has been heard of it until now.

The cause celebre of the moment is a site called Pincha la Rueda de Hamilton (which, for obvious reasons, dignifying with a link) which means ‘Burst Hamilton’s tyre’. I think it’s pretty clear from the appearance of the site it’s intended as a joke – users are invited to place items on the track to give Hamilton a puncture and one of them is a porcupine. But the appalling and racist remarks directed against Hamilton, apparently with the approval of the site’s owners, have to be taken seriously.

The FIA has condemned the site:

The FIA’s position is very clear. Discrimination and prejudice can have no place in sport or society. Everyone in our sport will join us in condemning these abusive and hateful comments.

I support their position but I’m confused by their approach. Why single out this particular website and why now?

Presumably the FIA wants to use the high profile of the season finale to draw attention to its anti-racism campaign. It’s going to look rather cynical if they don’t issue similar denunciations in future to every other website where racist remarks are posted about Hamilton (or, for that matter, any other racing driver).

I also wondered if there might be something in the FIA’s choice of words: “Everyone in our sport will join us.” Alonso refused to criticise the racist abuse of Hamilton in February. Is the FIA trying to force him to do so this time? Or is this reading too much into it?

The press, of course, is delighted with the opportunity to play up Hamilton as the victim, and run a few holier-than-thou headlines about racism in another country, as if it never happens in Britain.

For the record, there is a strict policy against racism (and other forms of discrimination) on this site which has been enforced on a very small number of occasions, and not just regarding comments aimed at Hamiton.

More of the coverage

Update: The site has been closed down. More here.

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47 comments on British press fury over Hamilton hate site

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  1. Nirupam said on 31st October 2008, 15:09

    Racism at any form is simply unsupportable. i do condemn the racist remarks against Lewis(though I dont like him).
    May not be with the exact context of the post, I must reveal my own experience. I am from India and for office work(I work for a software MNC) I had to go to UK on deputation. Me and many of my friends, of course all Indian, had to hear a lot of racist remarks from the local brits, specially the younger generation. Racist remarks against people from the part of the world where i live, always exist in the UK. Why the hell British media keeps mum over it?

  2. Kanyima said on 31st October 2008, 15:11

    May be the FIA condemned the site after the British press brought it to light. For whatever reason they have for highlighting it, they should be applauded. The comments highlighted are vile, Neanderthal, moronic and inciteful. If you live in Spain, you will already have become used to Hamilton haters. Well, I am. But to use a language like the one described on this website is simply unacceptable and should be condemned by everyone, including Fernando Alonso.

  3. David - BR said on 31st October 2008, 15:12

    I have to admit I’m one of the people who thinks much of the ‘dislike’ of Hamilton, including in the F1 paddock, is racist in origin. I don’t like dwelling on it much as it’s not worthy of dignifying, but comments such as Briatore’s ‘Hamilton’s no Mohammed Ali’ show the deep racism lurking in the murkier recesses of some people’s attitudes. I’m sceptical about Alonso too, primarily because he’s made no attempt to rebuke the racist part of his fan base. Having debated these issues elsewhere in relation to the racism of Spanish football fans, the site you mention (which I’ve browsed) isn’t at all surprising. Personally I think F1 have been slow to act and should have hit Barcelona much harder in relation to the racism at the GP this year.

  4. Roger Carballo AKA Architrion said on 31st October 2008, 15:13

    Hmmmmm, I’ve never been at that site…. but after all the press hype and free publicity I’ve tried and, You know?, the site is DOWN….

    I’m spanish, don’t hate Hamilton, don’t hate Ron, don’t hate McLaren….. let’s move on…. if some people would like to burst Hamilton’s tyres, well, it’s their choice. I don’t support a racial abuse, but I’m with you Keith, that all this hysteria is excessive.

    By the way, haven’t FIA got better things to do? Wouldn’t be better to expend money, time, and Max abilities trying not to ruin or beloved F1 with standard engines, KERS, money restriction and all of that stuff?????

  5. Kanyima said on 31st October 2008, 15:14

    Nirupam, I will be blunt with you, aren’t there people called “untouchables” in India? I don’t see the Indian society doing a great deal in denouncing this equally Neanderthal mindset.

  6. Kanyima said on 31st October 2008, 15:19

    Roger Carballo, this “hysteria” is not excessive. This is an attempt to highlight vile and unacceptable behaviour that should not exist in society at all. You can perhaps afford to say that if you have never been subjected to racist abuse. It hurts.

  7. Dear oh dear oh dear… some people resorting to the lowest common denominator yet again. When will we ever just let people be. Oh and what’s with the “EVERYRACE” campaign? What’s it actually done or planning on doing? Seems like a lot of fluff to me.

  8. I am also surprised that this one site has been picked out for condemnation of abuse while so many others (all over the world) are not. Interestingly, the Pincha la Rueda site appears to already have been in action in 2007 for the Interlagos GP according to a marketing ideas site talking about viral marketing. See:

    http://www.adverblog.com/archives/003273.htm

    Note: The ‘voodoo’ aspect of puncturing tires did not affect the results (nor did the ‘blessing-the-boot’ aspect help an English rugby result in a similar but positive campaign).

  9. roser said on 31st October 2008, 15:35

    I find curious that they ONLY find Spanish racist websites… which have to be condemned, anyway

  10. Every country has racism and other pointless forms of discrimination in it, but it is up to us as individuals to oppose it. Good to see the FIA denounce this particular site, and also good to hear Robert Kubica telling off people for their racist chants in the press conference yesterday.

  11. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st October 2008, 15:39

    Good to hear Robert Kubica telling off people for their racist chants in the press conference yesterday.

    I hadn’t heard about that – thanks Alianora.

  12. Guatuzy said on 31st October 2008, 15:45

    Sadly this is not doing any good to Spain…I hate to think that all spaniards are racist.

  13. What I didn’t notice in that story was that Rubens has also spoken on the subject (last half of the news item). He said that if he took Lewis off, then Felipe wouldn’t be a worthy champion and that

  14. Roger Carballo AKA Architrion said on 31st October 2008, 15:48

    YEAH…. YOU KNOW… WE’RE ALL ******* RACISTS….. OF COURSE…. I WILL TRY NOT TO HESITATE AT ALL ABOUT THAT… IT’S MY WAY OF LIFE… I GO AROUND WITH A T-SHIRT CALLING “I’M RACIST, WAHTS UP????”

    How boring.

  15. Tarry said on 31st October 2008, 15:48

    This may get me in trouble but Putting the racist issues aside the website is funny. It’s like a Voodoo doll for racing. How grate would it be to have a sight like this with a list of drives on one side and teams on the other. Each driver could have items from his hope county that you could put on the track to impede him that week. The teams could be sabotaged the same was. You could spill oil in the garage or drop a spanner in the gear box. All in good fun with out the inappropriate comments.

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