World champion race car driver Lewis Hamilton will wear an LGBTQ flag on his helmet for the upcoming Grand Prix in Qatar on Nov. 21.
His new headpiece showcases the Progress Pride Flag, which includes black and brown stripes to honor queer communities of color, as well as light blue and pink colors to honor the transgender community. The back of the helmet reads “We Stand Together.”
“Equal rights is a serious issue,” Hamilton said at a Formula One press conference Thursday. The 36-year-old British racer, who is Black, has been very vocal about human rights issues and has dedicated much of his platform to speaking out against human rights violations.
Sunday's race will be the first Formula One tournament in Qatar after the country signed a 10-year deal with the racing league, according to BBC Sport. However, the upcoming race has raised concerns over human rights and equality in the Arab nation.
“I do think as these sports go to these places, they’re duty-bound to raise awareness for these issues and these places need scrutiny and needs the media to speak to speak about these things,” Hamilton said Thursday.
Qatar has been the center of numerous human rights violations. Homosexuality is illegal in the country and can lead to jail time. Courts governed by religious law can technically punish Muslim people in same-sex relationships by death, but there is no evidence that the punishment has been used, The Independent reported earlier this year.
The Middle Eastern country has also been under fire for its treatment of migrant workers. Migrant hotel workers gearing up for the 2022 World Cup have worked long shifts at less than $2 an hour, with little to no time off, The Guardian reported Thursday.
“I just feel that if we are coming to these places, we need to be raising the profile of the situation," Hamilton said at the conference.
In July, the champion racer called out anti-LGBTQ laws in Hungary ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hamilton called the laws “cowardly” and “unacceptable” and urged Hungarian citizens to vote in an upcoming referendum, Insider reported.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have raised concerns over so-called sportswashing, when a country tries to use sports or major sporting events to distract the international community from human rights violations and mistreatment.
Amnesty International called on the Qatari government to address its record of human rights violations before the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the world's premier soccer tournament.
"FIFA must act now to ensure that the 2022 World Cup is a tournament to be proud of, and not one tainted by labor abuses," Stephen Cockburn, the organization's deputy director of global issues, said in a statement earlier this year.
Formula One, in a statement on its website, said it is “committed to respecting internationally recognized human rights in its operations globally.”
The racing league also outlined steps that it will take to ensure it is respecting human rights in its activities, including respecting the rights of its employees and monitoring the impact of its events.
“There’s a long way to go,” Hamilton said.