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
- Lewis Hamilton abused by racists on Spanish website (Daily Mirror)
- Vile: Racist insults on Spanish website that ‘wills’ Lewis to crash (Daily Mail)
- Hamilton targeted by racists (The Times)
- F1 ace gets more abuse (The Sun)
- Racist abuse aimed at Hamilton on website (The Independent)
- Spanish fans’ website aims abuse at Hamilton (The Guardian)
- Racist abuse back to haunt Hamilton (Daily Telegraph)
Update: The site has been closed down. More here.