Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton is set to showcase his solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community at the upcoming Qatar Grand Prix.
On Sunday (21 November), Hamilton will be competing against Max Verstappen in the country’s first annual Grand Prix.
The upcoming race is the first out of a 10-year deal that was revealed at the beginning of September.
The decision to include Qatar within the Formula One calendar has garnered criticism from activists groups like Amnesty International, who have pointed out the country’s “extremely troubling” human rights history.
In a statement, the group urged drivers and their teams to “speak out about human rights in Qatar in the lead-up to the race, doing their bit to break the spell of sport washing and image-management”.
At the pre-qualifying press conference, Hamilton opened up about supporting the LGBTQ+ community during the highly-anticipated event.
“We’re aware there are issues in these places that we’re going to. But of course [Qatar] seems to be deemed as one of the worst in this part of the world,” he said.
“I do think as the sports go to these places, they are the duty-bound to raise awareness for these issues. These places need scrutiny from the media to speak about these things. Equal rights is a serious issue.”
To showcase his solidarity, Hamilton is set to wear a Pride flag on his helmet with the quote “We Stand Together” on the back of it.
In Qatar, homosexuality is illegal and punishable with a jail sentence of up to seven years.
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The country also runs Sharia courts, where the punishment for Muslim men engaging in same-sex activity could be the death penalty. It’s worth pointing out, however, that there has been no recorded occurrence of this happening.
This isn’t the first time that Hamilton has shown support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, he called out the country’s government for passing a law that bans “content promoting gender change or homosexuality” within the school’s curriculum.
“To all in this beautiful country Hungary. Ahead of the Grand Prix this weekend, I want to share my support for those affected by the government anti-LGBTQ+ law,” he said.
“It is unacceptable, cowardly and misguiding for those in power [to suggest] such a law. Everyone deserves to have the freedom to be themselves no matter who they love or how they identify.”
Qatar is also set to host the 2022 World Cup, which has also seen pushback from activists and even the recently out football star Josh Cavallo.
In an interview on The Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast, the player opened up about his reservations about playing in countries where there are strict penalties for being a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I read something along the lines of that [they] give the death penalty for gay people in Qatar, so it’s something I’m very scared [of] and wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that,” he said of playing in the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
“And that saddens me. At the end of the day the World Cup is in Qatar and one of the greatest achievements as a professional footballer is to play for your country, and to know that this is in a country that doesn’t support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me and makes me re-evaluate – is my life more important than doing something really good in my career?”