Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc has hit out at suggestions he is racist or doesn’t care about the drive for equality because he has refused to take a knee before races this season.
Leclerc is one of a handful of drivers who have not knelt before races, choosing to instead stand whilst wearing an ‘End Racism’ t-shirt.
The 22-year-old insists he fully supports the campaign but has some misgivings about the Black Lives Matter movement because it has led to violent protests, particularly in the US.
But those comments have been twisted by some to suggest he doesn’t support the movement or is racist himself, which Leclerc has angrily hit out at as completely false.
“It is very sad to see how some people manipulate my words to make headlines making me sound like a racist. I am not racist and I absolutely hate racism. Racism is disgusting,” he wrote on Twitter.
“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.”
Leclerc later explained why he felt he needed to speak out during a press conference for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
“I just don’t want to be judged anymore. 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.
“That’s it. I just wanted to make a straightforward tweet just to express my feelings and that is it.”
Magnussen on standing
Meanwhile Kevin Magnussen has explained why he chose to stand last weekend, despite having taken a knee at previous races.
“I think in terms of standing or kneeling I want to make sure I am with the message of ending racism and that I support that movement and not any sort of political organisation that I think the Black Lives Matter movement is.
“So I want to separate myself from that and then push on with ending racism and that message – which I think is great that F1 is doing and all the drivers are supporting.
“That’s what I said before the second Austrian Grand Prix and that’s the way I will continue to do.”