Before and after his victory at the Tuscany Grand Prix in Mugello, Lewis Hamilton wore a t-shirt with the words, “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” printed on the front. The phrase, “Say her name” appeared on the back, above a photo of Taylor.
On 15 September, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) announced that it will not be launching a formal investigation into Lewis Hamilton. The association was deliberating over whether or not the six time World Champion winner had broken its rules by wearing the t-shirt.
Writing on Instagram, Hamilton said, “Want you to know I won’t stop using this platform to shed light on what I believe is right.”
But what did the t-shirt mean, and why did the t-shirt catch the FIA by surprise? Here’s everything you need to know.
What happened to Breonna Taylor?
Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot dead by US police officers in the Kentucky city of Louisville, on 13 March 2020.
Police were carrying out a so-called ‘no knock’ search on the apartment of Taylor and her partner, Kenneth Walker. Police claim that they announced their arrival, knocking several times on the apartment door. Neighbours say that no such warning was issued.
During a police interrogation, Walker claimed that Taylor shouted, “Who is it?” on several occasions, but received no response. Fearing that the house was being broken into, Walker armed himself, shooting a police officer in the leg. Police returned fire, shooting Taylor eight times.
A judge had signed the warrant allowing the police to search Taylor’s house because the authorities believed that individuals under investigation for drug related crimes had used the apartment to receive packages.
Police claimed that a US postal inspector had confirmed that such packages were arriving, but postal inspector Tony Gooden has denied such claims. No drugs were found in the apartment.
In the wake of large-scale demonstrations over police brutality after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Taylor’s name became a rallying call for equality and justice. Louisville officials have banned the use of no knock warrants, and, in late June, one of the officers involved in the shooting was dismissed from the police force. In June the city’s police chief was also fired in June after a separate police shooting.
On 15 September, officials in Louisville agreed to pay the family of Breonna Taylor $12 million (£9.5m) as a settlement. Lonita Baker, the lawyer for the Taylor family, called the settlement just one “layer” in the family’s effort to seek justice, with the family continuing to push for criminal charges to be made against the officers.
Breonna Taylor’s case has drawn international attention, with many celebrities and athletes participating in social media hashtag campaigns.
Why was Lewis Hamilton nearly investigated?
During the Grand Prix’s pre-race anti-racism demonstration, and on the podium after his victory, Hamilton wore the t-shirt bearing Breonna Taylor’s name and photograph.
Afterwards, a spokesman for the FIA said the matter was “under investigation”, explaining that the FIA was a non-political organisation and was considering if Hamilton’s t-shirt broke its statutes.
The FIA is currently a signatory of the Olympic Charter, which forbids any “kinds of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda.”
After his victory on Sunday Hamilton said, “I’ve been wanting to bring awareness to the fact there are people being killed on the street. And someone was killed in her own house and they were in the wrong house and those guys are still walking free.”
At the start of the season, F1 and the FIA launched an anti-racism campaign which includes anti-racism demonstrations before every race. Hamilton has been front and centre of each protest wearing a t-shirt bearing the words ‘Black Lives Matter’.
On 15 September, FIA announced it will not launch an investigation having considered the matter, and said clarified guidelines will be issued to drivers about arrangements for pre and post-race activities. This includes what may or may not be worn.
This article originally appeared on The Scotsman