Lewis Hamilton criticised for calling Stevenage 'the slums' in BBC SPOTY speech
PUBLISHED: 12:59 17 December 2018
Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton has come under fire for describing his hometown of Stevenage as "the slums" during a speech at last night's BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
The five-time F1 world champion was speaking on stage after being announced as one of the six finalists for the award.
Reflecting on his career so far and his chances of overtaking Michael Schumacher as the most successful racing driver of all-time, Hamilton said to co-presenter Gabby Logan: “I have got my family with me tonight.
“It has been a really, really long journey.
“It really was a dream for us all as a family to do something different. For us to get out of the slums.”
But Hamilton quickly corrected himself by saying: “Well, not the slums, but to get out of somewhere and do something.
“We all set our goals very, very high.”
His ill-judged comment has created a social media frenzy, with people incensed at his derogatory words.
Angry people have also been contacting the Comet. Alan White said: “I am angry Lewis Hamilton described Stevenage as a slum on national television. He has truly lost his grip on reality and needs to show some humility.”
Sue Foster said: “The people and town have supported him and he describes Stevenage as ‘the slums’. Shocking!”
Rob Entwistle posted on Facebook: “Somebody of his standing really should be more circumspect in his choice of words.
“He travels the world and Stevenage does not ever feature [compared to the] deprivation, squalor and inequality in countries he visits – a comparison he could encounter if not totally self-cocooned and self-engrossed.”
Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council, tweeted: “Disappointing that @LewisHamilton chose to use this event to make negative comments about his home town. Nowhere is perfect but we’ll go high and say we are #ProudofStevenage.”
England para-badminton star Gobi Ranganathan said: “I for one am proud to fly the flag for #Stevenage. It’s made me who I am today, and I’d never have achieved all I have without the support the town and council have given me. It’s not perfect, but it’s home. And it has a lot to offer if people just open their eyes.”
Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas ultimately won the SPOTY award, with Hamilton finishing in second place in the public vote.