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Celebrities often show up at big sporting events, including racing series like NASCAR and Formula 1 (F1). Regardless of whether they’re paid to be there for promotion or just want to go and have a good time, it’s a common occurrence at every single major sport. Megan Thee Stallion was the most recent example, as she paid a visit to the F1 race at the Circuit of Americas (COTA) in Austin this past weekend. Some were excited to see the Texas native at the event, but others extolled loaded (and maybe a little bit racist) reactions to the rapper’s presence based on a brief interaction between the artist and a prominent F1 journalist. 

It’s unclear if Megan is an F1 fan or not, but it appeared she was at the race on business, just like other rappers and celebrities. Financial services platform Cash App has a partnership with Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen, and Meg has a partnership with Cash App. The Cash App logo was stitched on her outfit, her nails are Cash App-themed, and her only Twitter and Instagram posts from the event have the caption, “.@CashApp 🤑💚.”

When visiting races, VIP guests are given full access. They can see the garages, the pits, and they’re almost always shown the racing grid before the race starts. This is where Meg was part of a moment that has blown up into a TMZ story.

Whilst walking down the grid, she was approached by former F1 driver and well-known British television commentator Martin Brundle who has done the grid walk for years. As Brundle attempted to grab her attention and asked her to do a freestyle rap about F1, the artist’s bodyguards and handlers attempted to shoo him away, including one bodyguard physically putting his hands on Brundle. Megan lightly slaps her bodyguard in a “boy, stop” manner, then proceeds with a gracious answer to the request from Brundle, saying, “[laughs] I have no rap today, I’m sorry.” Brundle tried to ask another question, but Meg was then hustled off to get to her intended destination. In a normal world, this kind of awkward encounter would have stayed in a Youtube or Twitter cringe compilation, and life would have moved on.

Well, we don’t live in a normal world. Megan Thee Stallion’s awkward F1 appearance has set off a range of reactions, some of which seem a little more suspect than others.

For those uninitiated with the world of pop-rap music, Megan The Stallion is a somewhat new rap artist who appeared on the scene around late 2017. After she released a few EPs and mixtapes, she dropped her debut studio album “Good News” in 2020, and she currently has more than 32 million daily listeners on Spotify. Even if you don’t like rap, you’ve probably heard her song “WAP” with Cardi B. In short, she’s a pretty big pop star. Yet, there are takes like this.

Tennis star Serena Williams was also at F1. According to The Independent, a somewhat similar interaction occurred when Brundle attempted to interview her, only for her to graciously decline with, “sorry, I’ve got somewhere else to be!” These awkward interactions should be funny, as we cringe together while several different prominent black pop and media stars politely rebuff a longstanding F1 journalist. 

Still, F1 fans and even some motorsport journalists insist that the two were being disrespectful primadonnas. I find it very odd how the two most visible black women at the event are called names when graciously answering or declining interviews from a journalist. Brundle himself bristled at the icy treatment from Megan’s bodyguards but didn’t comment on her. That didn’t stop an army of F1 fans with itchy Twitter fingers from somehow judging her whole career, fame, talent, and personhood, based upon a very minor perceived slight from her bodyguard. 

Women in motorsport have been vocal about the treatment they receive, so I am completely unsurprised that Megan thee Stallion and Serena Williams got shit for simply existing at the race. I mean, Lewis Hamilton has the most wins of any F1 driver ever, yet he’s still subject to racialized comments about his behavior both on and off the track. Weird.

Let’s all agree to laugh at these awkward pop star encounters, and not be racist, OK?

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