“It really was a dream for us all as a family to do something different. For us to get out of the slums,” Hamilton said, according to the BBC. Realizing that he wasn’t being quite accurate, he tried to backtrack: “Well, not the slums, but to get out of somewhere and do something. We all set our goals very, very high but we did it as a team.”
His heart might have been in the right place, but some of the 80,000 people living in Stevenage, as well as random commenters online, see his comment as the clear example of what happens when you let your own fame get to your head. Because Hamilton is now living in Los Angeles and traveling the world for his job, he forgot where he started from, angry voices are saying.
Even Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor seems to be of the same opinion, though she does give Hamilton credit for trying to remedy the situation. “It is disappointing that Lewis Hamilton referred to Stevenage as ‘the slums’ at such a high-profile event,” she says in a statement to the same media outlet. “He clearly realized what he had said and tried to correct it but sadly the people of our town, many of whom admire and support him, felt very offended.”
One person who definitely felt offended was another high-profile athlete – though admittedly not as high-profile as Hamilton himself: Team England para-badminton player Gobi Ranganathan, who took to Twitter to blast the F1 driver for being ungrateful.
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.— Gobi Ranganathan (@Gobi_r) December 17, 2018