Before Formula One races during the 2020 season, drivers have had the opportunity to protest racism as they see fit. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is one of six drivers that have stood while others have kneeled, prompting accusations that he is racist. Leclerc is very upset about this label and has made strong comments on social media.
"It is very sad to see how some people manipulate my words to make headlines making me sound like a racist," Leclerc tweeted in a three-part message. "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," the driver continued. "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."
While Leclerc has not kneeled before any races, he has worn a shirt with "End Racism" on the front. He also spoke out before the season-opening Austrian GP and expressed his commitment to the fight against racism. Despite reiterating his commitment, Twitter users have still accused the Ferrari driver of being racist simply because he did not kneel.
Leclerc further expanded upon his tweets during a virtual news conference with reporters ahead of the British GP. He explained that he posted the message because he "doesn't want to be judged anymore." He also said that this was a straightforward way to deliver his message.
"As I've said many times, I'm active on social media and I don't accept to be called the way I've been called in the last few weeks, negatively obviously, just because of not kneeling. I wanted to make a straightforward tweet just to express my feelings, and that's it," Leclerc said, per ESPN. There are currently no rules in F1 that force drivers to stand or kneel prior to races.
Leclerc is not the only driver to explain his decision to stand before races. Haas' Kevin Magnussen previously knelt prior to the Austrian GP, but he later stood before the British GP. The Danish driver explained the change by sharing how he wanted to distance himself from the political sentiments of groups such as Black Lives Matter.
"l think in terms of standing or kneeling, I want to make sure that I'm with the messaging of ending racism," Magnussen said. "I support that movement, and not any sort of political organisation that I think the Black Lives Matter movement is. I kind of just want to separate myself from that, and then push on with ending racism and that messaging, which I think is great that Formula 1 is doing and that all of the drivers are supporting."