Anti-racism group condemns Bernie Ecclestone over Lewis Hamilton remarks

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Anti-racism group condemns Bernie Ecclestone over Lewis Hamilton remarks

Mensaje  max_pole el Vie Nov 07, 2008 12:00 pm

Bernie Ecclestone was accused of condoning the racist abuse of Lewis Hamilton last night as the controversy over the treatment of Britain’s new world champion roared back to life four days after his title victory in Brazil.

A leading anti-racist pressure group accused Ecclestone of setting a “shocking and disgraceful” example after the Formula One commercial rights holder said that he regarded the conduct of fans who taunted Hamilton in Barcelona this year as “a bit of a joke”. Hamilton, however, said that he did not consider funny the behaviour of Spanish fans — who hurled abuse at him, blacked up their faces and wore wigs plus T-shirts inscribed with the legend “Hamilton’s family”.

“I didn’t see it as a joke,” the Briton, making a promotional appearance in London, said. “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 . . . I know Bernie and have a huge amount of respect for him. I can only assume he said positive things.”

Ecclestone sparked the row, which comes in the wake of recent racial taunting of Hamilton on a Spanish website that has been shut down, during a radio interview in which he repeated his view that the conduct of spectators during a test in Barcelona should not be taken seriously.
There were a few people in Spain and that was probably beginning as a joke rather than anything abusive,” he said. “I think people look and read into things that are not there. All those things are all a bit of a joke and people are entitled to support who they want. I don’t see why people should have been insulted by it.”

His comments were condemned by Kick It Out, the anti-racism sports pressure group. “What Bernie Ecclestone said is shocking and disgraceful,” the organisation said. “In his position in Formula One, and with the sway that he holds, for him to come out and say this . . . is very worrying and short-sighted.

“You would expect [him] to be protective of someone like Hamilton and use his authority to chastise these supporters. This will upset a lot of people, particularly young mixed-race and black males who are looking up to Hamilton and what he has achieved.

“Fans blacking up in the stands was overt, old-school racism and that is still fresh in the memory. People are entitled to support who they want but that is no reason for racist abuse, which this clearly was.”

Ecclestone reacted angrily when told how his comments had been received. He denied that he was condoning racism and said that his record doing business around the world over 40 years showed that he would do no such thing. “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 last night.

Ecclestone said that he had tried to persuade the Spanish authorities to force the fans in Barcelona to apologise to Hamilton. “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,” he said.

Anthony Hamilton, Lewis’s father and manager, said this week that the abuse directed at him and his son had prompted him to consider whether they should continue in the sport. “I did think maybe this isn’t the place for my family,” Hamilton Sr said.

www.timesonline.co.uk

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