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F1 Driver Lewis Hamilton to Take a Stand for LGBTQ+ Rights in Qatar

Lewis Hamilton and the helmet he'll wear at the Qatar Grand Prix
Shutterstock/Mercedes AMG

Hamilton has spoken out in support of LGBTQ+ rights before and has urged others in sports to call out countries with poor human rights records. 

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton plans to wear the Pride flag on his helmet for the upcoming Qatar Grand Prix this weekend.

Qatar country will be hosting its first Grand Prix on Sunday, November 21 as part of a 10-year deal with Formula One, according to the BBC.

On Hamilton's helmet, the message "We Stand Together" will also be written.

"We're aware there are issues in these places that we're going to," Hamilton said, according to The Guardian. "But of course [Qatar] seems to be deemed as one of the worst in this part of the world. As sports go to these places, they are duty-bound to raise awareness for these issues. These places need scrutiny. Equal rights is a serious issue."

Hamilton added: "If we are coming to these places, we need to be raising the profile of the situation. One person can only make a certain amount of small difference but collectively we can have a bigger impact. Do I wish that more sportsmen and women spoke out on these issues? Yes. It's down to whether you decide to educate yourself and hold the sport more accountable and make sure the sport is actually doing something when they go to those places."

The Middle Eastern country will not host Formula One races in 2022 as it will be preparing to host the FIFA World Cup.

Other countries in the region that have Formula One races include Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia.

Recently, out soccer star Josh Cavallo said he would be concerned about traveling to the country for the World Cup due to its law banning homosexuality. Due to Qatar's interpretation of Sharia law, Muslim men could be sentenced to death over their sexuality. However, human rights groups have said there's no evidence of such a conviction. The country has also been repeatedly condemned for its labor rights violations, especially of foreign workers.

When the Qatar Grand Prix was announced, the BBC reported that Amnesty International called the country's human rights record "extremely troubling." It encouraged the league to "insist that all contracts pertaining to this race contain stringent labor standards across all supply chains," adding that "drivers and their teams should be prepared to speak out about human rights in Qatar in the lead-up to the race, doing their bit to break the spell of sportwashing and image-management".

In response to the human rights group, F1 said: "For decades Formula 1 has worked hard be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits. Sports like Formula 1 are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement."

"We take our responsibilities on rights very seriously and set high ethical standards for counterparties and those in our supply chain, which are enshrined in contracts, and we pay close attention to their adherence," the league continued.

Hamilton's support of the LGBTQ+ community comes several years after he faced criticism for mocking his nephew for wanting to wear a dress. He apologized at the time, writing in an Instagram post, "I meant no harm and did not mean to offend anyone at all. I love that my nephew feels free to express himself as we all should."

He's been vocal for LGBTQ+ rights since including earlier this year when he spoke out against Hungary's anti-LGBTQ+ laws. "Everyone deserves to have the freedom to be themselves, no matter who they love or how they identify," Hamilton said ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

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