Sir Lewis Hamilton is at the very top of the motorsport world. I don't particularly buy in to the term "GOAT", but if you do, Lewis must come close to that ruminant moniker. He is a multiple world champion, holds many a Formula 1 record and is one of the brightest stars the sport has ever seen.
With all of that success though – with all of that applied talent, extraordinary hard work and focus, succeeding in a classic rag to riches story – he is still the subject of racism.
Three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet described Hamilton using the term "neguinho", which means "little black guy" in Portuguese. Plainly the Brazilian belongs to the generation for whom casual or direct racism was acceptable. That generation is literally dying out, but will the language go with it?
I don't think it will. The casual slur, essentially rubberstamped by previous generations as being just "words" has an alarming way of trickling through the generations, especially in sports where the predominant participants are white. Motorsport is precisely that.
This is evidenced by the case of Formula 2 racer Jüri Vips. He has been stood down from his contract as a Red Bull junior driver after uttering a racist term during a live feed of an online gaming session.
The Red Bull role is a fast track to a Formula 1 seat. Juri had the racing world at his feet.
It's a huge blow to the Estonian's F1 aspirations, but he still has a drive for his team, Hi Tech. They have released a statement saying that although they don't condone his language, his path is one of redemption, not a dead-end street. Formula 2's governing body has responded saying it wouldn't be a decision they would make, suggesting they would like to see harsher penalties rolled out for Vips. Then they reinforced their stance on racist rhetoric.
Conversation around "punishment versus crime" has been thick on social channels; sadly some comments have reinforced the racist underbelly that is present throughout the fanbase.
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The debate around appropriate sanctions for someone who throws that sort of language around is testing. Should an individual's career be finished or is education the way forward?
Education, examination and conversation are paramount. Vips' example will provide cut-through to younger drivers and fans. This opportunity needs to be utilised; he should become a poster boy for tolerance. He shouldn't just offer an apology, he should now make a concerted effort to show that change is possible, indeed utterly necessary for the sport to move on positively.
Back to the Boomers. Piquet has since apologised for his "ill-thought out comment" saying the word was common Brazilian terminology and no offence should be taken. It's generational, its common usage. It's hard to change the habits of a lifetime. Should he be commended for his atonement? It was late, and forced on him, soooooo...
The overarching thought here must be this: Racism, in any guise is wholly unacceptable and must be called out wherever it rears its ugly head. That should be as true of the most famous and respected athletes on the planet as it is of any person in the changing rooms.
The more we casually dismiss these archaic concepts, the deeper rooted that attitude becomes.
Say no to racism.