Lewis Hamilton can help ‘undo sportswashing effect’ as Brit hailed for Saudi GP comments

Lewis Hamilton goes undercover to inspire school children

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Lewis Hamilton has been hailed by human rights campaigners Amnesty UK, who believe the seven-time world champion can help ‘undo some of the sportswashing effects’ in this week’s Grand Prix host nation of Saudi Arabia.

Hamilton goes into the race in Saudi Arabia in a title tussle with Red Bull rival Max Verstappen, who he sits just eight points behind in the driver standings with two races to go.

There is no doubt the Englishman heads to Jeddah the man in form, having won the last two grand prixs in Brazil, and last time out in Qatar two weeks ago.

However the seven-time world champion has not just been praised by the recent work he has done on the track, but also off it as well as he spoke openly about both Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, most notably against the LGBTQ+ community.

In his last outing in Doha Hamilton sported a rainbow design helmet – which he will wear again this weekend – in support, and openly condemned the abuses that existed in the host nation’s society.

Speaking about the issue on Thursday he said: “As I said at the last race, I felt the sport and we are duty-bound to ensure we try and raise awareness for certain issues, especially human rights in the countries we are going to.

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“With the utmost respect for everyone that is here, I have had a warm respect from everyone here on the ground.

“I can’t pretend to ever be the most knowledgeable or deepest understanding of anyone who has grown up in the community here that is heavily affected by so many rules and regimes.”

Following this the seven-time world champion went on to admit that he felt uncomfortable being in the Middle East nation due to its discriminatory laws, but believes it is important to raise awareness whilst it stages one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

He continued: “Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do but it is not my choice to be here, the sport has taken the choice to be here and whether it is right or wrong, I think while we are here it is important that we do try and raise awareness.” 

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This campaigning from the 36-year-old has since earned praise from one of the world’s leading human rights advocates in Amnesty UK, who hailed his efforts to ‘undo the sportwashing effect’ taking place in this week’s host nation.

In a statement Amnesty UK chief executive Sacha Deshmukh told the PA news agency: “It’s extremely encouraging to see Lewis Hamilton speaking out on women’s and LGBTI rights in Saudi Arabia like this.

“It’s high-profile interventions like Lewis’s that help undo some of the sportwashing effects of Saudi-hosted events such as the Jeddah Grand Prix.

“The Saudi authorities seek to present events like the Grand Prix as supposed evidence of the country’s new ‘openness’, yet going into this race at least 39 people are currently in jail in Saudi Arabia simply for peacefully voicing their criticism of the authorities.”

The praise did not stop there for the seven-time world champion as fellow British driver Lando Norris also echoed these sentiments, describing him as a ‘good guy’.

Norris said: “He’s experienced now and he’s in a position where he can do this and say these things and he obviously has a massive following as well.

“So he can have a much bigger impact even than what I can. It’s good because it’s not solely with this where he is strong. 

“He’s also strong with many other areas at the track and also away from it. So he is a good guy to have, not leading us, but being the prime guy talking about these kind of things.”

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