Vettel: UEFA wrong to block pride flag on political grounds

2021 Styrian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel has criticised the decision of football’s governing body UEFA to prevent a stadium in Germany from displaying the colours of the pride flag at a Euro 2020 match yesterday.

Munich city council intended to illuminate the city’s stadium in the flag’s rainbow colours ahead of Germany’s match against Hungary to show support for LGBTQ+ rights during pride month. But Euro 2020 promoters UEFA blocked the move, claiming it “contravened its regulations as a political and neutral organisation”.

Vettel and Aston Martin team mate Lance Stroll ran pride flags on their cars during last weekend’s French Grand Prix. The four-times world champion said his disagreed with UEFA’s decision.

“I don’t know all the details but I think to excuse it as a political message I think is the wrong path,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans.

“It’s definitely not harming anybody and I think it’s a great message that they would have loved to send out and were not allowed. So I think some institutions need to rethink their approach on banning these type of messages. As I said it’s definitely the way forward and I didn’t understand it.”

FIA president Jean Todt recently commented on the relationship between sport and politics, indicating he disagreed with suggestions Formula 1 should avoid racing in countries with poor human rights records.

“[For] five years I’m very much involved with the UN as secretary general special envoy for road safety,” he explained. “If you see the high-level panel I am sure that you are well aware I made on road safety, you have Zeid [Raad] Al Hussein, a former high commissioner for human rights. You have Michelle Bachelet, the actual high commissioner for human rights, you have Filippo Grandi, high commissioner for refugees. So in a way, it’s a privilege I have to be discussing with them.

“Incidentally yesterday Stefano [Domenicali] was there, he came to visit me, and I had Jacques Toubon, former justice minister who has been until last year in charge of human rights in France, and I spoke with him about that. And everybody is in favour of having races wherever around the world.

“The only thing is, I mean, we are a sport, it’s also something I discussed very often with the Olympic Committee, with Thomas Bach, with Christophe De Kepper, because they have the same problem. And clearly we consider that sport should not be involved with politics.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “Vettel: UEFA wrong to block pride flag on political grounds”

  1. “And clearly we consider that sport should not be involved with politics.”

    The sport you’re sanctioning is being used by rulers of countries with simply atrocious records of treating their own people and others to promote said rulers and countries to the world.

    So sure, tell yourself that lie, just don’t expect anyone else to not laugh in your face when trying to sell them on it.

  2. We don’t need wars.

  3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    24th June 2021, 12:26

    Politics is in everything, including sport. Its unavoidable.

    Blocking a political statement is a political statement in itself.

    1. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk (AKA: Biskit Boy) – Yes, absolutely! I couldn’t agree more. There is no such thing as a non-political organisation. An organisation can be non Party Political, it can be neutral in terms of party politics, but saying you are non-political is a political statement in itself.

      Politics is about governance, not necessarily governments. If decisions are being made, if there’s a framework of rules, then politics is in play.

    2. Everything is unavoidable.

  4. On the one hand, Jean Todt is obliged to say what he said due to Article 1 of the FIA Statutes.

    On the other hand, sport not being involved in politics is literally impossible; its very existence or lack of same has political consequences, so it stands to reason that anything it chooses to do whose effects are not strictly bound within its paddocks (e.g. where those paddocks happen to be located) is involvement with politics. Choosing venues based on their fees is an obvious example of sport being involved in politics (pro-capitalist, even before considering differences between potential locations that can raise many other political issues) despite not actively supporting any specific political stance.

    I disagree with the headline, in that human rights are by definition political. This is because they deal directly in the (im)balance of power between different groups of people in a context involving governance. However, I do agree with Sebastian’s broader point, which is to say that supporting under-represented people in a way that doesn’t harm anyone else should be exempt from such a policy.

    (This specific action does have a complicating factor, in that Hungary made some false claims regarding gay and lesbian people and recently passed an anti-LGBT+ law on that basis, and the Hungarian government regarded the gesture as being aimed directly against them instead of being about the broader pro-LGBT+ support Sebastian discusses. While I think UEFA would have had ethical grounds to grant the exemption on this specific occasion, I’m not sure it had the legal right to do so, even if it secretly agreed with me).

  5. FIA president Jean Todt recently commented on the relationship between sport and politics, indicating he disagreed with suggestions Formula 1 should avoid racing in countries with poor human rights records.

    I completely understand why Todt said this. I challenge anyone to find a country without a poor human rights record…

    1. Exactly, the F1 season would be very short if this was a standard people applied honestly and consistently.

      Todt has to say this because he is the elected president of the FIA – an organization composed of motoring and sporting organizations from across the world. As the president, he is speaking on behalf of those organizations – including those from countries like China and the USA.

    2. @geemac absolutely. Where do you draw the line, in that context?

      The best thing to do, in that situation, is to go everywhere and raise concerns while you’re there. Putting the issue in the spotlight.

      In the case of UEFA and banning stadiums from using the pride colours, I don’t see what’s political about it. Isn’t it a human right’s issue after all? UEFA being european should follow european states support on LGBT rights declaration in the General Assembly or on the Human Rights Council.

  6. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    24th June 2021, 12:45

    Sport probably shouldn’t be DIRECTLY involved with politics but it is indirectly so. Going to countries with poor human rights records can be seen as at least passive endorsement, just as avoiding championing or talking about some causes can be seen as indifference. Either you care about these things or you don’t.

    This is why the ‘we race as one’ thing rings hollow, as speaking about these things – being anti racist, against homophobia and promoting equality across race, gender and sexuality is all well and good but if you’re not going to actually stand up for those things when challenged or it becomes financially uncomfortable then what’s the point in saying it at all? You can’t claim to stand for equality if you’re going to sit down when its challenged.

    1. + 1 Formula one is more interested in the money these countries will pay to host races or the new audiences in these countries, than they are about defending freedoms and human rights. Actions speak louder than words.

      1. Obviously I am talking about places like Saudi Arabia, other middle eastern countries, China, etc. However, I accept that it is true that very few countries have an unblemished human rights record in today’s world.

      2. Formula One raced in Britain when being gay there was still illegal……

        1. @yaru
          That is true but there was sadly a tiny minority of countries where being gay was legal at that time.
          It was still illegal in Germany, USA, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Austria, South Africa and India at points when we raced in those places too.

  7. So I think some institutions need to rethink their approach on banning these tyre of messages.

    Those Pirelli are definitely in the center of any F1 talks! Probably a lapsus or wishful thinking from the author.

  8. I think that as long as F1 stands by the messages and mission they have decided to adopt around inclusion and sustainability (all good things in my book) then race where you want as long as you don’t dilute that message to satisfy a government.

    1. I sure hope that those rainbowflag stripes on the AM cars will be very visible both in Hungary and in Sochi later this year @markboudreau

      1. 100% agree with that. The politics in these two countries towards LGBTQ+ are so absolutely wrong in my opinion.

        1. Most likely it would increase hatred towards LGBTQ in those two countries even more I suspect.

  9. I think Todt is being willfully ignorant here. He accepts the arguments that F1 can bring culture changes to these counties will poor/abysmal human rights records without any shred of proof that the changes are genuine, but he ignores the arguments that these events are used to sportswash the regime. He should listen to organizations like Amnesty International who will provide more than just the answer he wants to hear.

    Of course, if a country has been around long enough it will likely have a poor record on human rights. But the question they should be asking is what is the current climate like, and is the event being used to sportswash their record? In some places, like Dubai, Bahrain, Russia, Azerbaijan, China, and Saudi Arabia the answer is clear they are sportswashing.

    If you look at South Africa, they had a clearly poor record of apartheid but F1 raced there for many years until 1985 when the political pressure was too great to continue. But that was over a decade after the IOC had formally expelled them for apartheid so clearly, other sports organizations had recognized the effect sports has in politics. But now the government changed and racing resumed at Kyalami in 1991-1993. So I see this as an example of a country with a history of poor human rights that changed its ways and would be eligible to host a major international sports event like F1 again.

    1. Difference is, people in most countries see race as very very different and more fundamental than sexual orientation.

      1. @yaru Why should race be more fundamental than sexual orientation?

  10. I’m so old I remember when sports was an escape from politics and nobody cared what a given sports figure had to say about such issues…

    It’s all very tiresome because the whole LGBTXYZ thing is getting out of hand. Most of us are live and let live kind of people, but having all this rammed down our throats creates resentment and anger. The promotion of pride month is having a negative affect in my opinion on Normals like me who really don’t care one way or the other if you are gay or not. Life your life and leave others alone, that is the best way to practice actual tolerance is a modern society.

    That said, I doubt this will happen and the inevitable pushback (when it comes) will be a rude surprise for rainbow-promoting enthusiasts.

    1. So I guess you’re so old you remember the time before Jesse Owens ran at the Nazi-hosted olympics in 1936… and yeah man, I’m so tired of being force-fed rainbows, I mean who are these people to be spreading a positive message all over the place, right?

      1. He’s probably even older than that if he remembers when sports and politics weren’t linked. He probably is old enough to remember the Ancient Greek Olympics when political treaties and alliances were signed and political prisoners freed. Or in 1906 when an Irish athlete climbed a flag pole after winning to remove the Union Jack and replace it with a green flag with Erin go Bragh inscribed.

        And those damn rainbow flag toting trouble makers. If only they would just live and let live and accept that they still don’t have equal rights in many parts of the world. It’s really annoying for them to want their equal rights after so many years of intolerance and persecution by the Normals. Just let the Normals live as they have and stop bugging them with this need for them to make sure equal rights are for everyone.

        Sports and politics have been bound together since ancient times. Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or selling you something.

        As a world, we have much much further to go and a lot of work has to be done to ensure equal rights to all. That work requires all people who are able to, to speak out for and support those who have been persecuted, marginalized, harassed, or mistreated simply because of something like the color of their skin or the gender of the person they love.

    2. If you think it’s difficult having to hear about LGBT people for an entire month, imagine how difficult it is having to be an LGBT person all year round.

      1. Really? your friends support you, your family affirms you, your favorite sports teams and players say how brave you are, your government tells their constituents they can only say positive things about you, your university protects you from the dangers of deserting voices and the media cancels anyone that doesn’t get in line. I can tell you I’ve NEVER had that kind of support. Seems like a great time to be LGBTQ+.

        1. Maybe just try talking to an LGBTQIA person before making assumptions about how easy our individual, personal lives are.

          1. If you have the whole of culture at your feet and life is still difficult I suggest there may be some ontology to sort out. I will grant you this… EVERYONE deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and love. That is not however the same as affirming all actions are good.

          2. What actions are you talking about here? The expression of non-cishet identities and sexualities?

        2. I’m pretty sure the patrons of the Pulse nightclub would feel differently that it’s a great time to be LBGTQ+. Or at least the ones who made it out alive after a gunman killed 49 people, targeting them for their sexual orientation. And that’s just one of myriad examples of LBGTQ+ people being targeted in recent times. In fact, the FBI reports that hate crimes, including fatal violence, against LBGTQ+ people have sharply risen in recent years. And that’s in a country with laws protecting sexual orientation. In some countries being LBGTQ+ is still illegal and the state will brutally punish offenders.

        3. Hi Roberto, you clearly don’t know many LGBT people.

          My friends who I’ve found now do support me, most of them are other LGBT people – we tend to cling together because, well, it’s easier to be understood.

          My parents definitely don’t support me. We don’t speak much.

          The press routinely run hate pieces on LGBT people – yes, in the UK – and our right to exist is debated. It was illegal to talk about LGBT things almost the whole time I was in school and I’m a millennial.

          Hate crime against LGBT people is rife, simple things like holding hands with someone you love in public or even existing as yourself feel risky and mentioning anything about your relationships is seen as controversial. For trans people, there’s continuous stress about whether they can do basic, basic, basic things like be allowed to use a toilet in peace.

          It is fictional that there is some sort of LGBT superpower forcing you to do things. All anyone is asking for is that you treat us like human beings with the same rights as other people – if that’s too hard or you consider that too much of an indulgence then, well. That’s not great is it.

          1. Violence against ANYONE is a tragedy, especially when it involves the loss of human life. An uptick in such instances in LGBTQ is no less despicable. I won’t question FBI reporting, but I do question largely what constitutes violence or targeting. Not using correct pronouns is “violence”, that has been drilled into everyone’s head, I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic there.
            Some of what you’ve said (from 3 of you I think) really saddens me, it’s easy to forget in the world of anonymity there are real people with real lives at the other side of a conversation. What’s also disturbing is that the institutions that are designed to love you unconditionally (the family predominantly) has failed you, meanwhile the institutions that are supposed to represent everyone equally and unite (government, sports) have clearly taken sides. Although I am far from agreeing with your position on this matter, there is always space to discuss and disiagree and still hold up each others humanity.

  11. The problem was Germany wanted to do it only during the the game against Hungary, in direct protest against a new Hungary law. Protesting a law passed by another country, while playing againts said country’s team, is the very definition of political. Germany politicians and city council have been on the record that they wanted to light it up for this very reason. They also played France and Portugal in the same stadium the previous week and did not light it up against them.

    I think if they lighted it up against all the teams and non just Hungary, it would be less of an issue cos its a general statement and not against a specific country or law.

    Also, imagine if the situation was reversed and Hungary the country were to do the same to Germany on their own stadium by lighting up a black symbol or black flag (which is an anti LGBT color) while playing Germany there, because they wanted to protest the openness of LGBT rights in Germany that they consider to be a negative influence. Pretty sure those who are pro LGBT in Germany would not be happy with that.

    1. Forgot to add to last paragraph: UEFA would have to block Hungary from doing the same in that hypothetical scenario even though those in Hungary that support the anti LGBT cause would be upset about it.

    2. Finally someone makes an argument. Obviously Vettel is not in the know, the Germans who played all matches at home wanted to have a dig at Hungary just for an extra advantage.

    3. Big difference in the stakes of the right to not be offended and the right to not to be persecuted. But hey, what do I know, I’m just a snowflake.

  12. Jockey Ewing
    24th June 2021, 22:03

    <3 Seb, Greetings from Hungary! :)
    Obviously I could say many things about our politicians, luckily I will not, apart from I do not believe in most of them.
    I am not disappointed in them, because I know what to expect from them a long time ago: things what I do not need. In exchange I give them the same.

    I do not believe in -isms, as there is too many of those. For worse the -isms are almost never implemented to match their theoretical pure forms, so it is hard to compare the real world examples and being valid at the same time. The implementations are often distorted, even in the case of "good" -isms, due to bad and very common traits like greed.

    Therefore comparing -isms is often just generating pure politics and pointless debates. I do not need them, it is possible to decide if the implementation is good or bad without these. Therefore if an other party would practice bad things, I would treat them similarly, no matter what their orientation is.

  13. Allyship can be real without being virtue signaling. Just because we don’t fit your cis and heteronormative world view doesn’t mean we don’t deserve genuine allies. We do also call out useless tokenism as well, especially from capitalist companies which think they can win brownie points with this virtue signalling (yes, THAT is virtue signalling) while brushing many problematic things under the carpet.

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