Lewis hamilton creates ‘thobe gate’, in Bahrain

Lewis Hamilton has had his share of controversial moments. I recall, but apparently Google can’t, when he was suspended above a crowd at a Turkish opera and flew in on wires to land on the stage. It was one of the most embarrassing moves and no doubt orchestrated by his opportunistic father much to McLaren’s chagrin.

With success comes a high profile and when you’re Lewis, you amp that profile quite a bit through your social media accounts and press handlers. You build a brand and associate yourself with some of pop cultures bigger stars. That’s how Lewis rolls. That’s what Mr. E likes about Lewis in that he is getting himself out there and bringing attention to Formula 1.

With that level of success and public view comes public scrutiny and this weekend was ripe with more outrage from many who seek to be outraged by any action. The social media world is replete with those who instantly look to take a contrary position and find Google-assembled reason for their outrage. It’s the bravery of being out of range in most cases.

When Lewis showed up in Bahrain dressed head-to-toe in a thobe which is the traditional dress for Bahrain elite, it caused a stir in social media circles as Lewis said he had “nothing but love and respect for this culture”. I’m sure he meant it in the nicest way toward those who were wooing him at the time and making over his presence there with a complimentary thobe and platitudes.

What Lewis missed is that this grand prix has been shrouded in controversy over human rights and abuse with the culture very much in question. While we haven’t seen the protests and bloody pictures lately, that isn’t to say that the strife isn’t still there. Regardless of your feelings on the matter, Lewis may have been best advised to skip the thobe and praise of the ruling government and simply smiled and waved.

That’s not Lewis’s style and he’s more apt to go all in when feeling emotionally stirred and glad-handed as well as praised. He likes the attention but whether or not he considered how his words would be received is another matter. He’s reactionary and that’s not hard to see given the way he drives. Astoundingly quick and reactionary with lightning quick reflexes.

I called most of all this out back when Lewis entered the sport and the world was on fire for Lewis. I was not as amused and sold on the thought and didn’t play along with the folks who were ascribing him 8 championships before he’d won one.

Oddly, I find myself defending him these days as the varnish has worn off and the eight titles in succession haven’t come. People may be growing weary over Lewis’s jet-set lifestyle but to be fair, that’s his business and his actions in Bahrain were not meant as a political statement rather more of a nod to the race organizers and elites who were wining and dining him for media relations. The best move he could make? Clearly not but it was not an endorsement for human rights abuse. I think Lewis’s charitable work would show that this is not his political message.

In true Lewis style though, he did “stick it to the man” when he walked out in the thobe with a huge chain and Jesus Christ pendant on that flies in the face of the culture and elites he was praising. Lewis knew that he was paying homage to his hosts but he also knew where he stood on the matter and thought enough about the action and message it would send to don a Jesus Christ pendant. Cheeky.

Some social media folks aren’t happy unless they are outraged. Lewis, perhaps more than others, by simply putting his life out there is a fresh target for continually outraging the outrage culture. Maybe it’s time for another Turkish Opera fly-by since Google seems to have lost the images and social media outragists would find it difficult to search their Google-assembled causes.

hat Tip: Telegraph for outraged tweets.