December 6, 2021 (New York, NY) — Yesterday, Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton made history by winning the first-ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in a Pride helmet that reads “We Stand Together.”
He told Sky Sports before the race, “I believe everyone should have equal rights, freedom of speech, freedom of movement. And there’s places where that’s not allowed. Places such as here where the LGBT community, there’s prison time, the death penalty and restrictions for people being themselves. And I don’t believe in that.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote to Formula One and Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile leadership to request a meeting on human rights concerns, noting how “dozens of women’s rights and other peaceful activists are imprisoned, on trial, or effectively silenced and travel banned for their peaceful activism in Saudi Arabia,” highlighting that how activists have been imprisoned after campaigning for the women’s right to drive.
“Formula One is in a unique position to either enable or endorse this human rights image-washing or it can press the Saudi Arabian government on its human rights record,” the letter reads. “Your flagship Grand Prix is an opportunity to step up to your commitments on human rights and speak out for victims of Saudi abuse.”
All too often, championship sporting events are held in places where the human rights of women and LGBTQI+ people are under attack. We need voices like Hamilton’s speaking out about the importance of athletes and sport leaders using their platforms to champion human rights and LGBTQI+ rights worldwide, and we need athletic bodies to take action to ensure that the rights of people within host countries and traveling to those countries are protected.