As the only Black driver in the history of Formula One, it’s safe to say that Lewis Hamilton is in a very unique position every time he hits the race track. To that end, he’s been very vocal in the past about the need to improve diversity throughout the sport and makes it a point to use his own platform to call for change and amplify pertinent issues impacting the Black community.
For his efforts, the Wall Street Journal has christened Hamilton its first-ever sports innovator for its upcoming Innovator Awards. And in an exclusive interview with the news site’s magazine, the prolific activist, who also lends his support to environmental and animal rights causes, recalled one instance in which he had “nerves” after deciding to wear a t-shirt in support of Breonna Taylor.
I’m 1,000 percent sure you are an avid reader of The Root, so I’ll assume you’re familiar with the story of Taylor, who was shot and killed by Louisville Metro police officers in her own home last March. In the aftermath of her officer-related death, Hamilton decided to wear a T-shirt with “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” across the front before and after one of his races last year. In reflecting on that moment with the Wall Street Journal, the seven-time champion admitted to being nervous beforehand.
“I can’t be second. I’m wearing that shirt,” he told the Journal. “I’ve got to get to first to bring light to her name.”
After winning the race, Hamilton realized the magnitude of the moment as he headed to the podium.
“I get these nerves like, ‘Shoot, I’m about to break the rules and people aren’t going to be happy with it,” he recounted.
He was right.
Shortly thereafter, Formula One implemented a brand new set of rules for what drivers could wear before and after their races to prevent another Breonna Taylor-esque episode.
“They’ve changed a lot of rules after a lot of things that I’ve done,” Hamilton said.
As People Magazine notes, elsewhere in the interview, the 36-year-old shouted out other transcendent Black athletes who’ve blazed trails in other predominantly white sports.
“My dad and I would watch people like Tiger [Woods] who kind of broke the mold, and we watched in admiration,” Hamilton said. “The Williams sisters also did the same. We’re like, ‘Oh, if we could do something like that, that’s going to help change the industry moving forward.’”
Much respect to Hamilton for always putting on the culture, and congratulations on being one of eight honorees at next week’s Innovator Awards.