In the manicured, PR driven world of the modern day sports business having your own thought or saying something (anything spontaneously) is frowned upon. The modern-day F1 driver is trained to use polite sentences so as not to offend a global audience, but more importantly not to offend the sponsors. And or partners.
Offending the sponsors, and/or partners, can cause reputational damage. More importantly, it can cause a loss of revenue, for at least a short period of time.
But if you are white and Max Verstappen you can still get away with a lot. Sponsors love tough white guys. It’s good to inject youthful white exuberance into a brand. It’s good for the profits.
However, if you are black and successful you have a thin wire to traverse. As Lewis Hamilton found out the other week during the BBC’s annual Sport’s Personality of The Year Award.
On stage, Hamilton described his personal journey from his hometown of Stevenage to becoming one the most successful drivers of his era.
Unfortunately, he described Stevenage as “the slums”. To be fair it was a slip of the tongue comment. Slums are usually associated with third world countries.
Third world countries have been re-branded as “developing nations” by guilty developed nations. Presumably to hide imperialist guilt that stunted the growth of these developing nations.
However, Hamilton quickly corrected himself on stage but the damage was done. News organizations picked up on the comment and the people of Stevenage were not amused.
Anyway enough about the media’s sub-conscious racism and imperialism. That’s for another debate. A 2013 report found Stevenage to be a relatively successful small town with low unemployment.
The report also states that Stevenage “suffers from poor perception and profile due to its less favorable location, poorer quality town center and perceived lack of good quality housing”.
In simple terms, Stevenage Town Centre is a dump and the low-quality housing should be raised to the ground and rebuilt. The British colloquial term is “it’s a dump”.
We presume the low-quality housing is what Hamilton is referring to. However, we are not in any way defending Hamilton’s comments. It is what it is. A small controversy.
The news media will blow the story up on a monumental scale because it will fill column spaces. Some off these news media outlets are hypocrits, closet racists or neo-Nazi sympathizers.
I say the story will be forgotten in about, 2-3 days. And to be fair Hamilton did issue an apology on Instagram.
Does Hamilton deserve criticism? yes, he does. He made a dim-witted comment. But he’s apologised, its time to move on.