Leclerc and Magnussen explain not 'taking a knee'

Drivers on the grid take a knee before the start of the race.
© XPB 

While Lewis Hamilton has been spearheading an anti=racism campaign in F1 that includes wearing special black T-shirts bearing the message 'End Racism' during pre-race ceremonies, the drivers remain divided over whether they should 'take a knee'.

While the majority of drivers have followed Hamilton's lead, others including Ferrari's Charles Leclerc has opted to remain standing, as have Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat and Alfa Romeo pair Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Sainz and Kvyat have cited cultural connotations to taking a near in their respective home countries of Spain and Russia as a reason for not joining in, while Leclerc said that in his case the decision not to take the knee reflected his concern that many Black Lives Matters protests had ended in violence.

"I don't want to kneel down because many of the protests that take place around the world are often violent, and I do not accept violence in any form," he told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I also don't like that politicians are starting to use these protests for their own purposes."

However he insisted that on the core issue of racism, he was as committed to the cause as Hamilton and the other drivers on the grid.

"I am against racism," he said. "I fight against it, and I am glad that Formula 1 is using its platform to show the world the right position.

"Formula 1 left us the choice to express ourselves in the way we wanted," he added. "It was clearly written on our shirt to end racism, which is the main message we want to pass through."

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Racing Point F1 Team on the grid.

Leclerc also responded to social media criticism of his refusal to take a knee.

"It is very sad to see how some people manipulate my words to make headlines making me sound like a racist," he said on Twitter. "I am not racist and I absolutely hate racism. Racism is disgusting.

"Stop putting me in the same group as these disgusting people that are discriminating others because of their skin colour, religion or gender. I'm not part of them and I never will. I've always been respectful to everyone and that should be the standard in today's world.

"And to whoever is using my image to promote their wrong ideas, please stop. I'm not into politics and I don't want to be involved in that."

Picked up on his comments on Thursday in the official FIA press conference, Leclerc added: "I just wanted to make a straight-forward tweet just to express my feelings and that is it.

"I just don't want to be judged anymore," he said. "As I have said many times, I am quite active on social media and I do not accept to be called the way I have been called in the last few weeks, negatively obviously, just because of not kneeling."

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen had previously joined those taking the knee in the first three races of the season, but opted against doing so last weekend at Silverstone.

Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team on the grid. 02.08.2020. Formula 1

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen had previously joined those taking the knee in the first three races of the season, but opted against doing so last weekend at Silverstone.

"I think in terms of standing or kneeling, I want to make sure I am with the messaging of ending racism," he explained on Thursday at the official FIA press conference ahead of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

"I support that movement, and not any sort of political organisation that I think the Black Lives Matter movement is," he continued. "I want to separate myself from that and then push on with ending racism

"That messaging - which I think is great that Formula 1 is doing and all the drivers are supporting - I'm just trying to do that. That's what I said before the second Austrian Grand Prix, let's do what we continue to do."

For his part, Hamilton continues to work behind the scenes toward having all 20 drivers take the knee before races at some point in 2020.

"I do hope, bit by bit, we can come more and more together and become more united," he said after last week's British Grand Prix.

"When the reasoning for perhaps not doing it is how it would be perceived in your country - all you’d have to do is to look at other sports as they are doing it.

"I am not going to tell you what my opinion is on whether or not needs to or not but if you look at all of the other sports ... they’re all doing it unitedly.

"And you’ve got players that for sure who’ve been from Russia, been from Spain and so I think it’s a work in progress."

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