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‘Solidarity’ with Gary Lineker: Reaction as BBC removes presenter

The BBC has pulled former English football captain Gary Lineker off the air and asked him to step back from presenting its flagship Match of the Day program after government officials demanded Britain’s public service broadcaster action would be taken in response to Lineker’s criticism of their “stop the boats” asylum-seeker policy.

The UK this week announced details of a new law that would prevent asylum seekers arriving in small boats from across the Channel from applying for asylum. Under the new policy, they would be sent back to their home countries or to Rwanda.

Lineker, who has previously hosted refugees in his home, has retweeted a post with a video of UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman speaking about the “stop the boats” policy, commenting “My goodness this is beyond appalling “.

Challenged by one respondent, Lineker tweeted, “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy targeting the most vulnerable people in a language not unlike that of 1930s Germany, and I’m not okay?”

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Lineker’s comments were “not acceptable”. Lineker said he would “keep trying to stand up for those poor souls who don’t have a voice”.

Lineker was told there must be an agreed position on his social media use before he can return to work, the BBC said on Friday. Director-General Tim Davie said the BBC had taken “proportional measures”.

Support has poured in for Lineker following the BBC’s announcement of his suspension.

Here are some of those responses:

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon:

“As a strong supporter of public broadcasting, I want to be able to defend the BBC. But the decision to take Gary Lineker off the air is indefensible. It undermines freedom of speech despite political pressure – and it always seems to be right-wing pressure to which it gives in.”

TV presenter Piers Morgan:

“It is now a criminal offense in Britain to express an opinion. What a pathetic state of affairs.”

Ex-Arsenal player, Match of the Day expert Ian Wright:

“Everyone knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.”

Former Newcastle United player, match of the day expert Alan Shearer:

“I have informed the BBC that I will not be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night.”

Nobel laureate for literature Kazuo Ishiguro:

“I think he’s become one of the country’s really important cultural figures. I think he stands for very good things. I fully support him in this. Just purely in terms of freedom of speech never mind whether you agree with him or not. I don’t think the government should impose such restrictions on what broadcasters say.”

Labor Party spokesman Home Affairs Yvette Cooper:

“The focus on this is used by the government both to blame someone and to distract from their own serious failures.”

Former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn

“Well done Gary Lineker for standing up for refugees. Well done Ian Wright for showing the meaning of solidarity.”

Head of the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theater Union Philippa Childs:

“This is a very worrying decision by the BBC. It will appear that they have given in to political pressure from ministers to take someone off the air because he disagrees with the policies of the current government.”

Ex-Manchester City player, match of the day pundit Micah Richards:

“I wouldn’t be working on MOTD tomorrow, but if I were I’d find myself making the same decision as Ian Wright and Alan Shearer.”

Omar Waraich, human rights lawyer:

Gary Lineker doesn’t need the BBC. He is a national treasure whose reputation has only been enhanced by standing up for the rights of refugees. It is the BBC that Lineker needs to restore its credibility.”

Ex-Tottenham Hotspur player, match of the day expert Jermaine Jenas:

“I wasn’t planning on doing Match of the Day tomorrow, but if I had been I would have said no and stood next to my fellow pundits and Gary Lineker.”

Former Conservative Party Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries:

“News that Gary Lineker has been withdrawn from investigation is welcome and shows that the BBC takes impartiality seriously.”

“Gary is entitled to his opinion – freedom of speech is paramount. Many non-public broadcasters can accommodate him and his views and he would be better paid.”