The BBC asked former England star Gary Lineker to “step back” from hosting his football program on Friday after he sparked controversy over impartiality by criticizing the British government’s new asylum policy.
The 62-year-old, who hosts the Match of the Day flagship show, this week on Twitter compared the language used to introduce the new policy to that of Nazi Germany.
The BBC stated that it believed Lineker’s “recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines” and advised him to refrain from endorsing any particular political viewpoints.
In a statement, the broadcaster said: “The BBC has decided that he will step back from hosting Match Of The Day until we’ve got an agreed-upon and clear position on his use of social media.
Lineker’s response to a video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman unveiled strategies to stop migrants from traveling across the Channel on small boats set off the argument.
Lineker, the highest-paid celebrity at the BBC, stated on Twitter: “There is no significant influx. We accept significantly fewer refugees than most other major European nations.
This policy, which is described in language eerily reminiscent of that used by Germany in the 1930s to target the most defenseless individuals, is simply immeasurably cruel.
In an effort to stop thousands of migrants from traveling across the Channel on small boats, the Conservative government plans to outlaw all applications for asylum made by illegal immigrants and transfer them somewhere else, like Rwanda.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated earlier this week in the House of Commons that stopping the boats is “the people’s priority” and vowed to “break the criminal gangs” making money off of the journeys.
However, according to the UN and European and UN conventions on asylum, the legislation would turn Britain into an international pariah.
In a tweet posted on Thursday, Lineker expressed his excitement about hosting Match Of The Day on Saturday.
In a previous interview, he assured reporters outside his London residence that he would continue to criticize the BBC’s immigration policy and that he had no reason to fear being fired.
According to a BBC statement from Friday, Lineker is “second to none” when it comes to sports commentary.
“We have never said Gary should be an opinion-free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies,” the statement continued.
Ian Wright, a former England and Arsenal forward, announced shortly after that he would not be participating in the program this weekend as a show of support for Lineker.
Everyone is aware of how much Match of the Day means to him, but he tweeted, “I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. “Solidarity.”
Another former England striker and fellow pundit Alan Shearer also announced he would not participate in the segment after numerous other broadcasters spoke out in support of Lineker.
When Tim Davie became director-general of the BBC at the end of 2020, he issued a warning to the staff regarding their use of social media.
Since Lineker is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC and not a permanent employee, he is exempt from the same stringent impartiality requirements because he is not in charge of providing news or political commentary.
The former Barcelona and Tottenham player has welcomed refugees into his home and has publicly criticized the way the government handles migrant crossings in the past.
He has long maintained that because he does not work for the BBC’s news or current affairs departments, he is free to express his political views.
He was found to have violated the BBC’s impartiality rules with a tweet about the Conservative Party in October, though.