When Infantino was delivering his speech in late November, I remember thinking how it painted the FIA in such a good light. Credit where it’s due, while there must have been some extremely difficult and sensitive discussions held behind the scenes between the FIA, Formula 1 itself and race promoters, we had seen drivers able to wear helmets or t-shirts supporting the LGBTQ+ community in countries where they are facing oppression, without those drivers being penalised from a sporting point of view.
But off the back of FIFA’s approach, that good light has been turned off. Under the thin cover of aligning itself with the IOC, it has moved to close down avenues for such comment.
Even if it was commonplace for discussions to be held between the FIA and drivers or teams about statements or gestures, those discussions were not against the backdrop of a threat of sporting sanction. By writing it into the ISC, now the FIA has given itself a far stronger hand to try and silence or punish competitors with.
And the wording leaves so much in play. For example, what if a driver is asked by a journalist for their views on a human rights record at any race? Are they not allowed to respond unless they’ve had the answer pre-approved?
Major sports going to host venues that are members of the United Nations and yet don’t adhere to some of the most basic Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has happened plenty of times before and will happen plenty of times in the future. There’s not a country in the world that everyone on the planet deems perfect, and in fairness to the FIA, it doesn’t choose where F1 races.
But when those sports insist their presence can be a force for good, helping stimulate conversations and influence change for the better, they need to back it up.
Instead, trying to silence some of those conversations completely – regardless of whether they’re about the LGBTQ+ community in the Middle East, abortion laws in the United States or racial inequality in Great Britain – is not progress. It’s the complete opposite.