The Lotus Formula One team has been accused of dismissing the man in charge of its social media strategy after he tweeted a picture of a gay kiss in support of athletes at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Stephane Samson, a contractor who was tasked with running Lotus’s branding until the image was posted on 7 February this year, reportedly wrote on Twitter this week that he had “just been told I was sacked because of my supporting tweet towards gay athletes at Sochi”.
He apparently later wrote: “Lotus=Putin. Please retweet. People must know”, adding: “Let’s make #LotusAntiGay trend worldwide!”
Those messages have since been deleted, and replaced with a post saying: “Sorry guys, some tweets had to disappear… once again!”
The post from the official Lotus team account that allegedly lost him his job read: “Ahead of the opening ceremony, we would like to wish all athletes a successful 2014 Olympic Winter Games #Sochi2014”, next to a picture of two men kissing.
In a letter from Lotus’s lawyers reportedly seen by the Telegraph this week, the company is claimed to have said this amounted to “gross misconduct”.
Dated 13 June and sent by Lotus’s city lawyers, Withers LLP, the letter allegedly said that the Sochi tweet could “cause serious reputational and financial damage to our client”. Pink News reported that Lotus is owned by Genii Capital, a company with Russian business interests, and that the team is sponsored by the Russian phone manufacturer YotaPhone.
Mr Samson’s attempts to make the circumstances of his dismissal public this week have been widely supported by followers on social media. One congratulated him for “standing up”, while another said: “Kudos for trying, but I’m afraid this is a battle you can’t win”.
A Lotus spokesperson said there was no comment on the matter and that it was “in the hands of the lawyers”.