At Sunday’s Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton stood in solidarity with Qatars' oppressed LGBT community by wearing the Progress Pride Flag. Hamilton won the race, zooming past the checkered flag. His crash helmet showcased the emblems of sexual and racial minorities.
Pink and blue stripes mirrored the color scheme on the trans flag. Black and brown stripes encompassed the oppression of people of color. Most prominently, the rainbow pride colors burned into consciousness the oppression of LGBT Qataris.
On Sunday, Qatar hosted its first Grand Prix. Amnesty International condemned the decision, describing Qatar’s human rights record as “extremely troubling.” The helmet garnered attention from various publications.
Hamilton sent a brazen message to Qatar and other homophobic countries.
“These places need scrutiny from the media to speak about these things. Equal rights is a serious issue.”
Nevertheless, the message was contradictory. Athletes like Hamilton stimulate Qatar’s economy; his fans still flock to the country. Hamilton sent an undeniably courageous message, but it was ultimately insufficient. In spite of his bravery, the sports world still embraces Qatar’s government.
Qatar, the richest country in the world per capita, lavishly hosts sports events, welcoming in an influx of western fans. Qatar’s Al Bayt stadium will stage the 2022 World Cup. More than a million fans are expected to arrive in Qatar for the event.
Nassar al-Khater, the chief executive of the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar, attempted to allay fears surrounding Qatar’s poor human rights record:
“I would like to assure any fan, of any gender, (sexual) orientation, religion, race to rest assured that Qatar is one of the most safe countries in the world — and they’ll all be welcome here.”
David Beckham, a self-proclaimed proponent of LGBT rights, has signed a deal to “promote tourism and culture” ahead of the event. Beckham will reportedly receive the equivalent of 200 million USD from the role over the next decade.
As sports fans and athletes tacitly embrace Qatar, LGBT Qataris suffer. Same-sex relations constitute a criminal offense in Qatar, potentially resulting in up to three-years imprisonment. In rare circumstances, homosexuals could face the death penalty.
In addition, laws restrict the freedom of journalists to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity. Even Al Jazeera avoids LGBT topics. The outlet’s last Arabic article regarding LGBT issues dates back to 2004.