Be more like John Hume and Lewis Hamilton - keep climbing the hill

Kenny Archer

Kenny Archer

Kenny is the deputy sports editor and a Liverpool FC fan.

The late, great John Hume was truly someone to look up to - he fought the good fight.
The late, great John Hume was truly someone to look up to - he fought the good fight. The late, great John Hume was truly someone to look up to - he fought the good fight.

THERE'S an irony that often those who most want peace have to fight. And keep on fighting.

Like the late, great John Hume.

Not 'fight' literally. The Derryman was a proponent of non-violent protest.

Yet he kept on keeping on, fighting for a better Northern Ireland.

Imagine, though, if John Hume had heeded the advice of those who apparently lent a listening ear – and then advised him to 'move on'.

Those who wondered 'What do these civil rights protestors want?', as if they were demanding superiority rather than merely equal treatment.

Those who purport to support the cause of equality.

1996 Formula One world champion Damon Hill came out with some frankly flabbergasting comments last week, on the subject of Lewis Hamilton's support for the Black Lives Matter campaign.

"People don't like being told what to do," said Hill "They also tire of things quite quickly.

"The support can be there initially but how do you go forward with this? You don't want to wear out people's sympathies so it is going to be a challenge to keep the flag flying for Lewis's cause. Maybe he is going to have to do it on his own and move on?"

Lewis's cause? LEWIS'S cause?

Do it on his own? Move on?

Hill's remarks are like someone wondering why a tenant is still complaining about a flooded house, weeks after the flood happened – er, because it's not fixed?!

Maybe Lewis Hamilton will 'move on' after significant progress has been made. However, while he remains the only black/ mixed race driver on the F1 grid there's clearly much more to be done to achieve equality, even just equality of opportunity.

Hill, as the son of a famous racing driver, should know all about the importance of privilege.

He should also know better than to set up false arguments against Black Lives Matter.

"It is entirely appropriate for Lewis to carry on," Hill wittered on. "Everyone is behind him, everyone gets what he wants to do and the support is there in helping black people achieve their goal of being rid of prejudice and injustices.

"That is a constant battle but there are other causes, too. Does Sebastian Vettel have an initiative to support, for example? Teams want to support charities also.

"For it now onwards to all be about Black Lives Matter is wrong."

Has Hamilton – or anyone – suggested that it should from 'now onwards…be all about Black Lives Matter'?

Is Hill really equating the push for racial equality with support for charities?

And is he seriously saying that 'everyone is behind [Hamilton]?'

Two other former F1 world champions definitely appear to be in denial about the issue.

Jackie Stewart claimed that there "was no resistance to change" in Formula One, while Mario Andretti described Hamilton as "pretentious" and "creating a problem that doesn't exist."


Just wow.

In response, Hamilton quite rightly and correctly labelled Andretti "ignorant" and said that Stewart's comments were "disappointing".

Yet Hill sided with the octogenarians, saying "you have to be very careful with showing respect and slinging accusations around. I don't believe that Sir Jackie Stewart is racist. I don't believe that Mario Andretti doesn't understand the situation at all. Both men are experienced and worldly."

In other words, 'keep your head down, Lewis. Button your lip, Hamilton.'

What respect did Andretti show to Hamilton? Respect is a two-way street.

Hill's advice could have been taken straight from the 2014 blog post by British journalist and author Reni Eddo-Lodge which prompted her book 'Why I'm no longer talking to white people about race':

"I can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience.

"You can see their eyes shut down and harden. It's like treacle is poured into their ears, blocking up their ear canals. It's like they can no longer hear us….

"The words hit a barrier of denial and they don't get any further."

When even the likes of Hill, who claims to back what Hamilton wishes to achieve, can basically advise him to give it a rest, 'be very careful', then that indicates the scale of the problem in F1, indeed in many sports.

Hamilton could easily have cocooned himself from the debate, taking the 'Republicans buy sneakers too' attitude (even if basketball legend Michael Jordan claims that comment was made in jest, and that he sent a financial contribution to the African-American Democrat politician who was seeking his public endorsement).

Yet the man who is on course to become the winningest F1 driver of all-time this season has, commendably, used his podium to take a stance, to take a knee, even if others on the grid refuse to do so.

Hume said in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture, "difference is not a threat, difference is natural. Difference is of the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it."

The key word there is respect.

There's a difficulty with enforcing quotas in any aspect of life, but especially in sport. Doing so either in management or on teams could actually become counter-productive.

Racists would quickly blame the colour of a manager's skin if their team failed, even though there would be plenty of other reasons for them falling short.

Yet given the amount of people of colour excelling in various sports the very least that is required is the serious application of the 'Rooney rule', that all lists of interviewees for coaching roles should include at least one person of colour.

As it stands, the English Premier League has one 'black and minority ethnic' [BAME] manager – the Portuguese boss of Wolves, Nuno Esperito Santo.


That's five per cent, far lower than the proportion of players of colour on the pitches.

And the EPL is declining to introduce the Rooney Rule, even though the FA and the English Football League have brought it on.

Until that changes for the better, people of influence such as Lewis Hamilton have to keep on speaking out.

As Eddo-Lodge concludes in the preface to her book: 'Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can't afford to stay silent.'

To put it in sporting terms, the game isn't over, the race isn't run.

Equality won't be achieved until there truly are level playing fields, with everyone playing by the same rules and judged by the same standards, not by the colour of their skin.

At present, most people of colour aren't at the back of the grid, they're not even on the grid.