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Formula One drivers wear 'End Racism' shirts and take a knee before season opener

Associated Press contributed.

Formula One drivers came together to take a knee in a show of solidarity against racism ahead of Sunday's season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

All 20 drivers wore 'End Racism' shirts and gathered at the front of the track ahead of the race in Spielberg, Austria, as 14 of the drivers took the knee — a move often associated with the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick and his protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

The six-time world champion British driver Lewis Hamilton’s shirt featured the words 'Black Lives Matter.' Hamilton is currently the only Black driver in Formula One.

Formula One, or F1, is the highest class of international single-seater auto racing. Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas won the race Sunday, with Monaco’s Charles Leclerc close behind in second.

"End racism. One cause. One commitment," Formula One wrote on Twitter ahead of the race.

"As individuals, we choose our own way to support the cause. As a group of drivers and a wider F1 family, we are united in its goal."

Hamilton has spoken widely about racism in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes in May. Floyd's death sparked international outrage and protests around the globe.

Hamilton, who came in fourth on Sunday, attended a Black Lives Matter march in London and is setting up a commission to increase diversity in motorsports.

This comes as soccer players in England and Germany have taken the knee before games in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Olympic officials, however, are still weighing whether to allow athletes to kneel at next year's Summer Games.

Six of the 20 drivers on Sunday did not take the knee, including Charles Leclerc and and Max Verstappen, the Belgian-Dutch driver.

“I will not take the knee but this does not mean at all that I am less committed than others in the fight against racism,” Leclerc wrote on Twitter on Sunday. Verstappen echoed a similar feeling also in a Twitter post.

Formula One's governing body, Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, is donating one million euros (about $1.12 million) to improve diversity in motorsports.

“Financing internships and apprenticeships for under-represented groups to ensure that they can fulfill their potential and have access to promising careers,” the FIA said on Sunday.

The leading racing league in the U.S., NASCAR, has responded to the global protests against systemic racism by banning the Confederate flag from its events and rallying to support the only Black driver in its top series, Bubba Wallace, after a noose was found in his garage.

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