BBC’s Gary Lineker spoke out to criticize asylum policy – DW – 11/03/2023

Former England football captain and BBC presenter Gary Lineker has been temporarily taken off the air, the public broadcaster announced on Friday, after his criticism of the UK’s new migration policy sparked a row with his employer.

“The BBC has decided that he will withdraw from presenting Game of the day until we have a clear and agreed position on his use of social media,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

What did Lineker say?

Lineker took to Twitter on Tuesday to criticize the UK government’s new policy of denying asylum to migrants arriving in small boats and deporting them to their countries of origin or so-called safe third countries.

Lineker shared a video of Home Secretary Suella Braverman speaking about the law and added, “My God, this is beyond awful.”

In a response to another user, he went on to describe the measure as “an immeasurably cruel policy directed against the most vulnerable people” and compared its wording to Nazi-era Germany.

The policy has also been condemned by opposition parties, charities and the UN refugee agency for its impact on genuine refugees.

Lineker was known for his political involvement since his playing days, but he’s likely become more outspoken on social media in recent years. He has courted criticism from some observers in the UK – who argue he should not show political bias as a BBC sports presenter – on similar occasions in the past.

“We have never said that Gary should be an opinionless zone, or that he cannot have an opinion on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should avoid taking sides on issues political or political controversies,” the BBC said in its statement.

Lineker’s is also a household name in Germany due to his joke after England’s defeat to West Germany in the 1990 World Cup semi-finals that “football is a simple game”. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and in the end the Germans always win. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this quote caught on.Image: David Davies/empics/picture alliance

Game of the day presenters take a step back

Lineker, who hosted Game of the day for over 20 years, will be off the air when the show is scheduled to air on Saturdays.

The show, which has been on the air since 1964, is an extended highlight recap of weekend fixtures in the Premier League, usually including studio analysis directed by Lineker.

After several of the show’s regular studio presenters, including Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, Jermaine Jenas and Micah Richards, said they would not appear on the show without Lineker, the BBC said the edition of Saturday from Game of the day would instead focus on match action with no studio presentation or expertise.

Shortly after, the show’s six scheduled match commentators went on to say that they would not be appearing on Saturday’s show either. They recommended the BBC use World Feed commentary instead, rather than their own play-by-play callers.

Braverman: ‘Glib’ Nazi Comparison Dims Holocaust Tragedy

Braverman appeared on the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, published on Friday, and was asked about the week’s events and Lineker’s comments.

Braverman, whose husband is Jewish, said Lineker crossed a line by saying his language on this issue was “no different from that used in 1930s Germany.”

“My husband’s family feels the impact of the Holocaust very keenly, actually. Throwing out those kind of flippant analogies diminishes the indescribable tragedy that a lot of people have gone through,” Braverman said, saying, “And I don’t think not that anything happening in the UK today can come close to what happened during the Holocaust, so I find that a lazy and unnecessary comparison to make.

This followed the issue raised repeatedly in the House of Commons this week, usually by Conservative MPs.

Outgoing Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meanwhile called the BBC’s decision “indefensible”.

And the opposition Labor Party issued a statement calling the decision ‘cowardly’ and ‘an assault on free speech in the face of political pressure’, concluding: ‘The BBC should rethink’.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, meanwhile, said: “Individual cases are a matter for the BBC.”

Lineker among BBC’s most recognizable faces around the world

Lineker is considered the BBC’s highest-paid presenter with an annual salary of up to £1.35 million ($1.62 million) for hosting Game of the day and other soccer covers

The former Barcelona and Tottenham player was a household name before taking the reins of the country’s premier football broadcast soon after his retirement. It has now been a staple of British screens on Saturday nights for decades.

Lineker has welcomed refugees into his home and has been highly critical of the government’s treatment of asylum seekers in the past.

He’s also branched out into other interests in recent years, including as the owner of the Goalhanger podcast network.

zc/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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