Bernie Ecclestone has created a small storm over his recent comments that the Spanish web site, replete with racist remarks toward 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton, were nothing more than jokes and people cheering for who they want.The anti-racism group Kick It Out has called for Ecclestone’s resignation over the incident.
Bernie was quick to point out that he is not condonning racism, quite the opposite:
“I was the one who pulled the Grand Prix out of South Africa [after 1985] in support of Nelson Mandela because of bloody apartheid before these people knew anything about racism,” he told The Times.
“I said to the promoters in Barcelona, ‘Let me go and get the people that blacked their faces up and bring them into the paddock and introduce them to Lewis and then see what they’ve got to say.’ But the police said, ‘Don’t do it.’ I personally was going to get them.”
What might be most impressive over this whole issue is the way Lewis Hamilton handled the comments.
“I didn’t see it as a joke,”. “It’s something that happened but it is in the past.
“What’s more important to me is that I had a lot of support, especially from UK fans. As long as I have my country behind me it makes me very proud. It makes me very proud to see my fellow countrymen holding up the flag. All the other stuff I need to put behind me. I don’t generally keep up with what’s being said and I haven’t read what Bernie said.”
As a Jewish person whose lineage has seen its share of racism, I doubt Bernie is promoting racism and while his comments seem dismissive, I am interested in the context and question asked by the reporter. Getting over heated by comments from Bernie seems a bit of a waste of time as we all know Bernie likes to be profound and controversial in his statements. It creates good press for F1. Even at the expense of others.
Either way, I think Bernie has just run squarely into the the specter of racism and its reactions from both sides. Welcome to the game Mr. E. Max may be able to share a lawyers number so you too can litigate your innocence. Just kidding.