Flagging Free Speech or Nepotism? Formula One Team Drops Russian Driver Over Ukraine Invasion

I recently wrote about the Metropolitan Opera Manager Peter Gelb cancelling  soprano Anna Netrebko after she failed to condemn Vladimir Putin. Netrebko, who denounced the Ukrainian invasion, has appeared in pictures with Putin and has said that she will take a hiatus from performing after the controversy. I drew heated objections to my column for defending a supporter of Putin. I was defending free speech rather than Putin but it is an old saw used against civil libertarians when they object to public or private censorship. Now we have a different story out of Formula One racing where Russian driver Nikita Mazepin was dropped by Haas F1 despite a FIA ruling he could compete in Formula One races.  The controversy has some unique elements tied to the racing but raises similar issues of compelled speech.

Haas dropped its sponsorship with Uralkali, the Russian fertilizer company co-owned by Dmitry Mazepin, the father of Nikita Mazepin and also a close associate and supporter of Vladimir Putin.

The dropping of the sponsorship of Uralkali is consistent with many companies and sports associations boycotting Russia and its businesses. Indeed, Formula One terminated its contract with the Russian GP, cancelling the Sochi races that Putin personally helped secure.

The team indicated that Mazepin’s driving on the team was linked to the sponsorship. That nepotism, however, did not bother the team when it cut the deal. Indeed, it kept Mazepin despite reported objections to his driving, including the nickname “Mazespin” for his propensity to draw caution flags. He did not rack up a single point in the prior season. The team also kept Mazepin after a groping controversy.

While sponsors likely have influence on the selection of drivers, Haas ultimately had the choice to accept or not accept a deal if it was conditioned on using the son of an owner. If Mazepin is a subpar driver, the team should admit that it sold out earlier but could not now justify his place on the team without the effective corporate bribe. The contract makes it seem like it is not principle but profits that found its limit for the Haas racing team.

Instead, the team went public by declaring the termination as a stand against the Russian invasion to “acknowledge the strong commitment made by the FIA to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.” That came after the FIA ruled that all drivers must agree to its principles of peace and neutrality and “acknowledge the strong commitment made by the FIA to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.” That meant that Mazepin could drive if he agreed with the policy. He later posted on Twitter he had agreed to the stipulations.

Despite my support for Ukraine, the policy itself raises free speech concerns. It is conditioning the participation of drivers on their accepting a political position of the company. The FIA declared that Russian and Belarusian drivers could only compete in international motorsport if they raced under a neutral flag and agreed not to express any support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As with the kneelers in NFL games, private companies can require employees to refrain from engaging in protests or political statements during business hours.  However, this is a requirement for employees or athletes to actually be silent on their views outside of competitions. Other companies, as with the Met, require that employees or contractors actually repeat the political position of the corporation, a form of coerced or compelled speech as a condition for employment.

Once again, it is important to address the rationalization on the left for attacks on free speech in recent years: the First Amendment only protects speech from government crackdowns. The First Amendment is not the full or exclusive embodiment of free speech. It addresses just one of the dangers to free speech posed by government regulation. Many of us view free speech as a human right. Corporate censorship of social media clearly impacts free speech, and replacing Big Brother with a cadre of Little Brothers actually allows for far greater control of free expression.  As I have noted earlier, while liberal writers and artists were blacklisted and investigated in the 1950s, liberal activists have succeeded in censoring opposing views to an unprecedented degree in recent years. Rather than burn books, they have simply gotten stores to ban them or blacklist the authors, athletes, and artists.

Now back to Mazepin. Haas went out of its way to paint its decision as one compelled by principle. It terminated a contract that appeared an exercise in raw nepotism because it was moved by principle.

That principle, however, is troubling for some of us in the free speech movement. Since Haas is not saying that it terminated Mazepin as a subpar driver (which would require that it admit to selling out earlier), the move was read by many as part of its public stance against Russia.  Again, it could say that Mazepin was forced on the team by his father and, now that the company is not a sponsor, it will drop its designated driver. It did not say that and Mazepin objected to the change in his status after complying with the FIA policy.

Mazepin issued a statement that “While I understand the difficulties, the ruling from FIA plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed in order to continue were completely ignored and no process was followed in this unilateral step.”

I have no objection to the barring of Russian companies and flags from competitions in light of the unjustified and unprovoked invasion. Many of these companies and oligarchs have close ties and support from the government. However, the company is not barring protests or support for Russia in competitions. It is requiring silence from athletes who may support the claims of Russia or Putin as a condition for their competing. (Notably, the NHL has not forced athletes like Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin to denounce Putin despite prior expressions of support).

Most of us would have objected if companies required athletes to voice support for the Vietnam War during the 1960s or barring them from supporting one side in their private lives. As unpopular as it may be to raise the issue, this is deeply concerning from a free speech perspective. It is worthy of a debate on the role of corporations in compelling expression or coercing the silencing of political viewpoints.

77 thoughts on “Flagging Free Speech or Nepotism? Formula One Team Drops Russian Driver Over Ukraine Invasion”

  1. In the year 2525, people will still be wondering when Putin will be stopped.

  2. Now the sacked generals have a reason to assassinate Putin or have a coup against him.

  3. Why should private corporations get to be more tyrannical than the government? That’s just kicking the tyranny down the road. Tyranny is tyranny whatever the source.

  4. Your article reflects your FEELINGS about how free speech should be, but not the state of First Amendment jurisprudence. You correctly noted that the first amendment regulates government actions.

    The actions described in your bleeting article were private actions by a private company.

    Are you suggesting we expand free speech to regulate company speech?

    I do not buy the premise of your intellectually bankrupt argument and article.

  5. Putin found his thrills on Blueberry Hills when Mespo unzipped his pants and started bobbing for kiwis.

  6. Mespo has no credibility. He supports Putin and the killing of innocent Ukrainian civilians.

  7. Ivan,
    So true. Many Japanese military officers who invaded Philippines and committed atrocities there (Battan and Manila) were
    educated in American universities, such as Portland, where they likely intermingled with the Japanese population.

  8. Turns out all those lamentations over the internment of the Japanese during WW2 were all for show. Warm up the camps.

    1. Ivan,

      If Trump wins, I am prepared to go to a camp because I will never stop calling his supporters “liars.” Never.

      1. “If Trump wins, I am prepared to go to a camp because I will never stop calling his supporters “liars.” Never.”
        Good, obsession does that to ya but I hear rubber rooms are very comfortable yet full of activities like Cranium Bounce and Red Rover Ricochet. Oh and you might wanna change that “If” preposition to the subordinating conjunction “When.”

        1. If Trump wins the election, everyone knows that the election was rigged. Sound familiar?

          1. JS:
            I always care less about process than results when it comes to politics, so I’m okay either way. Sort of my substance over form mentality. How’s that $6 a gallon gas by the way? Miss ol’ Trump yet?

            1. I was mocking you lying Trumpists when I said that Trump’s re-election would be rigged. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. $6 gas is a small price to pay to help Ukraine. Miss Trump- the “carnival snake charmer,” that Turley astutely called him years ago? What do you think?

              1. “$6 gas is a small price to pay to help Ukraine.”

                The only ones helped by that $6/gallon are the Green New Deal zealots whose desire is to destroy America’s energy industry.

                And how, exactly, does America not buying Russian oil help Ukraine? Russia has plenty of other markets for its oil and gas.

                  1. “$6/gas is not going to break the bank.”

                    So much for the party that claims to champion the middle class.

                    1. Sam,

                      The middle class can afford $6/gas for the time being. Stop whining. You prefer to be in the shoes of Ukrainians?

                    2. $6.00 gas translates to over $240 per month for most people for 1 car using only 10 gallons per week, when they were paying $100 per month under Trump.
                      People making $30,000 to $90,000 per year can easily afford an extra $140.00 per month? In addition to added costs for groceries, maintenance, and other needed items?
                      Democrat delusion manifests itself again.

                    3. Ride a bike. It’s good exercise. This high gas price is a blessing in disguise.

                    4. jeffsilberman – Lead, and we shall but follow. Please post photos of you, on your bike, taken today.

                    5. jeffsilberman – How about you pay for our $6/gal gas? Please list all your credit card numbers. You can afford it, according to you.

                    6. It’s only $6 where I live in California. Be glad you are in a safe zone and not being shelled. Suck it up.

                    7. jeff silberman – you are avoiding the issue. We need those credit card numbers, now. You can afford it.

                    8. jeffsilberman – No, we need the credit cards, there are A LOT of us. Besides, $100 isn’t even a tank of gas. My state is open, so we work.

                    9. Only you have your hand out. You are the only one willing to accept a handout from a NeverTrumper. I’m serious. Post your Venmo or Cashapp name, and I’ll send you $100.

                    10. jeffsiberman – I am not put my hand out, I am putting all of middle class America’s hand out. Put your money where your mouth is and list your credit card numbers so we can us them as we need them. Be sure to pay your bills on time.

                    11. Paul,

                      Apparently, you are not in dire straights. Rather, you are pulling my leg. My offer still stands. If you are genuinely hard-up to pay for your gas, I’ll buy you a tank for your truck. Just post your PayPal, CashApp of Venmo, and I’ll help you out. I have not forgotten you “Forgotten Men”
                      in fly-over country. Fair enough?

    2. Ivan – we onlly interned SOME Japanese, SOME Italians and SOME Germans. No Japanese were interned from Hawaii and the line stopped in the center of Phoenix, AZ.

  9. Since this thread has already digressed way off topic, who watched the NBC interview of Bill Barr last nite calling Trump a liar for fraudulently promoting what he had every reason to believe was untrue, that is, the election was rigged?

    And did people see the letter in which Trump eviscerated Barr?


    I know where all you lying Trumpists stand. You stand foursquare behind Trump’s statement:

    “Former Attorney General Bill Barr wouldn’t know voter fraud if it was staring him in the face – and it was…. The fact is, he was weak, ineffective, and totally scared of being impeached, which the Democrats were constantly threatening to do. They ‘broke’ him.”

    By his own admission, Turley has had a long-standing friendship with Barr. I wonder whether he will come to Barr’s defense and denounce Trump’s cheap shots of his good friend’s integrity?

    We wait with bated breath….

    1. And you confirmed that Barr was accurate where??
      Did you ask the Wisconsin ex Supreme Court Justice who investigated? Did you read the book “Rigged” by Molly Hemingway. That explains without bias or bluster what actually happened in 2020. Facts, not opinion mistrepresented as facts to which Democrats are addicted. In fact she blames Republicans for letting the fraud happen.

        1. Yup. That is what passes for intelligent repartee in the world of True-haters.

            1. Wise-old lawyer says of me:

              “Yup. That is what passes for intelligent repartee in the world of Trump-haters.”

              Nope. I hate the sin of lying, not the man Trump. I can’t hate a man I have never met personally. I call ‘em as I see ‘em. If you Trumpists do not want to be called “liars,” then I suggest you stop lying that the election was “rigged,” or “stolen.”

              Didn’t you just hear Bill Barr say publicly that the conspiracy theories were all BS?

              1. You clearly have not done your research.
                Once again, you misrepresent opinion as fact.
                Who cares what Bill Barr said? He cited no facts. Neither have you.

        2. You are a typical Democrat liar who misrepresents biased opinion as fact.

          1. Bill Cohn says:

            “You are a typical Democrat liar who misrepresents biased opinion as fact.”

            Then that makes two of us.

      1. Bill Barr’s out on a money hunt … er, I mean … book tour. Everything he says, does or writes is taken in that context. You wanna get real history from a carney barker, best of luck. You wanna get book marketing examples from him, you’re in luck. Here’s betting the exact whereabouts of Malaysian Flight 370 is on the inside dust cover!

  10. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are not suggestions, the entire communist American welfare state is unconstitutional.

    The right to private property supersedes the freedom of speech, only property owners may “claim and exercise” dominion over private property, and public organizations must strictly adhere to the Constitution.

    That one does not enjoy and endorse the rights, freedoms and severe restrictions on government established by the Constitution, does not nullify the rights, freedoms and severe restrictions on government established by the Constitution.

    The only people in America who cannot read and comprehend the simple, concise English language of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are the negligent, derelict and treasonous members of the political, biased, and impassioned judicial branch who subvert and void the Constitution on a daily basis.

    The judicial branch is in no form or fashion a legislative branch, and the judicial branch has no power to legislate, modify legislation or legislate by “interpretation,” all of which are impeachable crimes of high office.

    1st Amendment

    Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,…

    5th Amendment

    No person shall…be deprived of…property…nor shall private property be taken for public use,…

    “…courts…must…declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void.”

    “…men…do…what their powers do not authorize, [and] what they forbid.”

    “[A] limited Constitution … can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing … To deny this would be to affirm … that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

    – Alexander Hamilton

    “[Private property is] that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.”

    – James Madison

    1. Blow those Horns & stay away from their illegal J6 set ups!

      VIDEO: American Truck Convoy Encircles DC on Capital Beltway During First Day of Protests
      By Julian Conradson
      Published March 6, 2022 at 7:40pm



      Sounds like Old Media took Govt Money & pushed a Nuremberg Type Crimes of Push mRNA Bio-Chem-Weapons.

      Are they still take the money & pushing the Death/Clot Shots? I’m thinking Bear, Woods & I smell Bear sh*t everywhere.

      Millions Dead & Injured everywhere & some people are still sitting on their azzes in shock many in Govt/Pharma/MedTech/media/Teachers Unions etc., etc have Lied to us Citizens, took our money/assets & still attempt to destroy our Nation, cut off fuel/energy & k*ll us all.

      Alex Jones was Right! Roger Stone did Nothing Wrong. ( Go buy those Tee Shirts. )


      (Ck Fox News, NewsMax?)

      Documents Reveal Hundreds of Media Companies Including Conservative Media were Paid by Federal Government to Promote the COVID-19 Vaccines
      By Jim Hoft
      Published March 7, 2022 at 7:15am


        1. I’ve noticed WesternJournal.Com has shown itself to be a good site in the past few years. (I’ve no need to watch/read much old media stuff)

          Sounds interesting

          I’ll try to remember to watch later.

          Lots of stuff going own in the world right now.

          Below was mentioned yesterday.

          Ukraine on Fire | Trailer | Documentary | Oliver Stone | Maidan, Crimea, Putin, U.S. interference
          Aug 22, 2017
          7.98K subscribers

          Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan Massacre helped oust President Yanukovych with Russia painted as the perpetrator. Oliver Stone interviews Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yanukovych and others exposing the role the U.S. played in destabilizing the region.

          Ukraine. Across its eastern border is Russia and to its west—Europe. For centuries, it has been at the center of a tug-of-war between powers seeking to control its rich lands and access to the Black Sea. 2014’s Maidan Massacre triggered a bloody uprising that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and painted Russia as the perpetrator by Western media. But was it? “Ukraine on Fire” by Igor Lopatonok provides a historical perspective for the deep divisions in the region which lead to the 2004 Orange Revolution, 2014 uprisings, and the violent overthrow of democratically elected Yanukovych. Covered by Western media as a people’s revolution, it was in fact a coup d’état scripted and staged by nationalist groups and the U.S. State Department. Investigative journalist Robert Parry reveals how U.S.-funded political NGOs and media companies have emerged since the 80s replacing the CIA in promoting America’s geopolitical agenda abroad. Executive producer Oliver Stone gains unprecedented access to the inside story through his on-camera interviews with former President Viktor Yanukovych and Minister of Internal Affairs, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, who explain how the U.S. Ambassador and factions in Washington actively plotted for regime change. And, in his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Stone solicits Putin’s take on the significance of Crimea, NATO and the U. S’s history of interference in elections and regime change in the regio

          1. Oky1 – Oliver Stone is an excellent film maker but a piss poor historian or documantarian. Watch his films as pure fiction.

            1. I chuckled this morning at a Podcaster I haven’t heard of say he was a “Conspiracy Theorist”, that he was a “Conspiracy Therapist” .

              Maybe that’s a new tag for me “Conspiracy Therapist”. lol

              I haven’t followed Oliver Stone & his son’s every move over the years.

              What I can say is that the govt’s JFK, RFK, MLK stories are complete works of fiction, Same with the OKC building, details of 911, ( Marvin Bush anyone? etc., etc….)

              Anyway, regardless of the details of the real story the govt’s stories of many different events are complete BS on their face.

              And there are simple tools one can use in different problem solving techniques.

              AKA: GW Bush & Hunter Biden are both passed out cold, there’s 2 new crack pipes, Thks Joe, laying on the floor & an there’s a big ole empty dirty baggie.

              We don’t all have to be Rocket Scientist to know GW & Hunter are a couple of meth head droppers. from the evidence available. Just the same with many stories.

              People are free to believe whatever as long as they’ll weedeat my fence. 😉

  11. Your columns reference continuing discussion of to what entities free speech applies.
    It would be interesting to develop the application where the private sector company is essentially an agent of the government. Where a government official espouses a denial of free speech and encourages the private sector to execute that violation, it would appear that the private entity is an agent of the government and is prohibited from acting to deny free speech.
    Thus, a private college president acting subsequent to a declaration of a government official would be subject to a prima face case of denial of the 1st Amendment Rights to Free Soeech and Freedom of peaceful Assembly.

    1. Yes, you are right. It seems a valid point and good legal argument. The law of agency fully supports it. But I don’t see it being pressed by anyone.

  12. Evil things should be condemned out of hand, such as child molesting robots. There’s something wrong with you if you don’t.

  13. We used to “only” cancel people for them saying something that some snowflakes DIDN’T like. Now we cancel people for what they DON’T say? Unbelievable! People might remain silent for fear of retribution against their families, or many other reasons. We need some more global warming to melt these extreme snowflakes!

  14. What is FIA?
    Those who oppose Putin should knell when they go to church and pray for his assassination. Those who support Putin should go to church and knell and pray that his hooker doesn’t give him syphilis.

  15. Though I agree we should be non-cooperative in the extreme, this is just another form of virtue signaling. That, and cancellation, are all the left and its institutions know how to do anymore. It is vacuous, empty, and designed to keep the eyeballs, clicks, taps, and $$$ flowing – that’s all.

    Most of these people would have been unable to point out Ukraine on a map a month ago, and they say ‘KEEV’. Lest you think I’m being unfair, my own brother has this mentality. It is impossible to discuss certain matters with his, ‘I only get news from NPR.’, social media addled brain.

  16. It isn’t uncommon in F1 for drivers to bring money with them. Haas is a small team with a small budget, relative to Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, and others: and so corporate sponsorship and the strings attached often keep a team in existence, nevermind competitive.

    I agree with the general point about compelled speech, but in this particular case Mazepin’s father – the major sponsor of the team – is within Putin’s oligarchical circle. Therefore Mazepin’s son, the driver, isn’t a random athlete who just happens be Russian.

  17. The “Slightly Authoritarian” Trudeau demonstrated a complete lack of self-awareness, opining that other countries have accepted slightly more authoritarian leaders and that has emboldened Putin to Invade Ukraine.


  18. KPMG has cut ties with its Russian member firms, because of values… It is all virtue signaling and insincere. These accounting firms are not responsible for their government actions. Neither is Mr. Mazepin of Ms. Netrebko. If a firm wants to be virtuous, do some good: start a scholarship program for the disenfranchised or something. To force employees, contractors and others over which you have some degree of economic power to make a public stance is not virtues; it is oppressive and cowardice.

  19. As a participant in that. bit of unpleasantness…..one has to remember the United States NEVER treated the “Vietnam War” as a War.

    It was fought funded by the DOD Maintenance Budget, we never invaded the Enemy’s Home Land, and did not unleash the full power of the US Military.

    One might also recall it was fought in support of an. Allied Nation against Communists.

    One of the reasons we saw it turn into the disaster it was is the fear it would trigger a larger confrontation with Russia and China which were supporting the Communists in their effort to overthrow the Government of South Vietnam.

    It was only when Nixon took Office and we began to apply stern measures did we see the North Vietnamese decide to negotiate a Peace Agreement.

    We had gone into Cambodia and destroyed the NVA Logistical Bases and later sent the B-52’s to downtown Hanoi did the North Vietnamese agree to a Peace Deal.

    Do you see a trend here…..we are making the same mistakes today in the Ukraine Invasion by Russia.

    Some where there must be a Bright Red Line drawn…..and evil be confronted and defeated.

    1. The Nixon campaign secretly told the North Vietnam government not to negotiate with Johnson because Nixon would give them a better deal. Then Nixon continued the war for five more years. Probably one of the most treasonous acts in US history.

      And Vietnam does count as a war.

      1. If it was legally a war, when was the Declaration of War by Congress????

        1. Bill Cohn – Just because Congress did not declare war. did not mean we were not engaged in one.

            1. Minor semantics. Formal declarations of war have gone out of style. The definition of “war” in a historical context does not depend on the exact wording of legislation authorizing military force. Nor does it depend on on the funding mechanism. The US has sustained combat operations with a enemy. It was a war.

              1. Sammy – a couple of things. 1) I agree with you it was a war 2) I disagree that the US declared war since there is a specific procedure in the Consitution which was not met 3) we have been involved in undeclared wars before and since.

              2. Yeah, that’s par for the course; that whole constitution-thingy for you Lefties is just minor semantics.

  20. It would have been interesting if all students had to commit to backing the Vietnam War to go to college.

Comments are closed.