Brand Ambassador or Political Activist? – Conservative Article
‘ARREST THE COPS WHO KILLED BREONNA TAYLOR.’
Lewis Hamilton is a serial offender of World Domination! This message above was emblazed on the six-time Formula 1 (F1) World Champion’s t-shirt after he won the Toscana Grand Prix on 13 September.
Hamilton made his views clear about police brutality as well as the situation surrounding Ms Taylor’s death back March. As I see it, he is already on the front line fighting to ensure anti-racism messages are heard loud and clear by the motor sporting world. As a global sporting icon, with a Tommy Hilfiger clothing line (would recommend) and extensive social media following to boast, he is in a prime position for political activism. His Instagram is littered with his views on veganism, environmental issues as well as the debate around racism.
I believe his domination of F1 over the last five years is not only a testament to his sporting ability but also his character. His statement, even defiance, around the death of Ms Taylor is important. It serves as a reminder that sporting icons are humans. I think this is sometimes forgotten.
On account of humanity, I want to defend the rights of sportswomen and men, as well as other VIPs to freely express their views. Obviously, there is a scale to this… a scale that is hard to quantify. I’m sorry I don’t say more on this. I’ll leave it to my colleagues to decide how they feel after.
In the Premier League, clubs are still taking the knee, but in the Championship it is falling out of fashion. Some players and staff do not want the symbolism to lose meaning: “Taking the knee was very powerful but we feel that impact has now been diluted”. That is why we are seeing an understandable move towards individuals expressing their views. In F1, currently, there is the ‘End Racism’ slogan across much of the driver’s grid t-shirts pre and post-race. Hamilton took it a step further. He made a statement, and regardless of backlash, he has to be commended. The FIA (F1 governing body) has already amended rules (27 September) so that podium finishers cannot take the opportunity to promote political or other messages.
It is nothing new to him, but it was not exactly in keeping with the ‘political neutrality’ of the F1 brand. Do I think this should matter? No! Hamilton doesn’t believe he should be prevented from openly expressing his views in such a way. I tend to agree. We have to remember the power sportswomen and men have.
Like my colleague Imran Mydin noted when discussing the NBA’s work against racial justice, athletes and brands like ‘the NBA needs to use [their] influence… to push for greater social justice.’ Hamilton was on the Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People of 2020 list, and there are reasons for that…
Overall, it seems to me that there is no use in trying to stifle athletes from being vocal about certain political issues. This discussion, I will admit, focuses a lot on racial injustice and how Hamilton, the face of F1, is going about his business. But, there are others. Marcus Rashford, a member of the Manchester United football club squad, has not shied away from calling out Boris Johnson’s handling of child food poverty in the UK. He boasts 3.3m Twitter followers, who will all have seen his frank discussion around child food poverty.
If his club were every unhappy with how he presented his views, should he be reprimanded or even disaffiliated? Again, we are only looking at a select few areas, but I believe the principle has wide, not universal applications.
Being a brand ambassador does come with a certain responsibility, I am not trying to say it shouldn’t. I do feel more strongly though that in fighting issues close to our hearts, can we really blame the athletes and idols we elevate from wishing to “follow [their] heart and do what [they] feel is right”? They are of course, only human.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Joshua Tyrrell
Point of Information
Why Does Using Their Brand Matter? – A Labour Response
I confess that when I first thought to respond to this article, I missed the word ‘brand’ in the title. There I was getting excited to write about an ambassador in hot water over his impossible-to-ignore conscience. But alas! It was about the ‘controversy’ of Lewis Hamilton saying what any reasonable and ethical person has been saying for the last few months.
I struggle to see how this is newsworthy if truth be told. One of the most obscenely rich sportspeople on the planet, implicated in the Paradise Papers leak and accused of tax avoidance (big surprise), adds his voice to millions of others.
And this is perhaps my problem with idolatry: the bar is set so low when it comes to famous people. We do not bat an eyelid when they avoid tax that the rest of us pay. Because after all, it’s to be expected. However, we clap when they show the merest shred of humanity. Almost as if they are a hero for doing what everybody else is doing.
This is not to say that the causes that Lewis Hamilton supports are at all trivial or unimportant. No, it is his support of them that should not excite attention, especially in light of the much bigger ethical questions surrounding such figures.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Marco Dryburgh
Sport is a fantastic way to preach social justice! – A Liberal Response
I agree with a lot that Joshua has said in this article. It is not new for sports to be used to fight for social justice. In earlier times where African Americans initially fighting for social justice, the only stage they had was the Olympics, baseball or American football.
I am also extremely glad to see that almost all sports have come together to fight racism. The NFL has finally embraced players taking the knee and are making active efforts to fight racism. Moreover, the NBA is even postponing games. Even this week, Landon Donovan, former Everton player and current manager for San Diego, abandoned the game after the use of homophobic slurs.
However, I think we need to be aware of a small, but important concern. For all issues of social justice, we should come together. But sport presents a platform for sometimes unfair and unthought out views. We saw Charles Barkley and ‘Shaq’ O’Neil defend the cops in the Breonna Taylor murder. We also saw Lewis Hamilton promote Covid-19 conspiracy theories.
There needs to be an awareness of these concerns. Although using the platform of sport to fight for social justice is amazing and should continue, we need to be aware that it does not hold all the answers.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Max Anderson
‘Hold a flexible mindset’ was a piece of advice I once heard and I find it appropriate to mention when introduction myself as a member of the POI team.
I’m a third-year History and Arabic student at the University of Manchester, and have just returned to London after an abortive year abroad learning Arabic in Jordan (thanks, Covid). Travelling and living abroad in a country and culture as different to ours as Jordan’s is without the obligatory reflection of your own values and priorities is impossible.
I am currently in my second year of reading Politics at the University of Exeter. My first interaction with politics was at the tender age of four years old.