Viewers planning to boycott Match of the Day after Gary Lineker row
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In a statement released on Friday night (10 March), the BBC said the former England player, 62, would take a break from the weekly football highlights show.
The news came after Lineker was reprimanded by the broadcaster after he found himself in a political storm after he criticised the UK government’s handling of the migrant crisis by comparing it to Germany in the 1930s.
Lineker’s break from the show, which he has hosted since 1999, will continue for an undetermined amount of time until both sides can come to an agreement about his social media presence.
"The BBC has been in extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days. We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines,” the BBC statement said.
“The BBC has decided that he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media."
Lineker’s colleagues, including Ian Wright and Alan Shearer, as well as his fans have expressed outrage over the decision, with viewers threatening to stop watching the show until the BBC’s top paid broadcaster is reinstated.
A petition started by The Daily Mirror has reached over 150,400 signatures as he whizzes to its goal of 200,000.
The petition’s description reads: “As a freelance sports presenter, Mr Lineker should be able to share his personal views on current affairs.
"Many other BBC faces have posted controversial opinions on social media without sanction.”
It adds that the BBC has ‘undermined its own reputation for impartiality’ by removing Linker from the air.
It continued: “Rather than accept the freelance sports presenter was speaking from a position of genuine compassion, right-wing MPs immediately called for him to be removed from the BBC.
"The broadcaster should have stood up to this baying mob.
"If it values free speech and, above all, if it values its independence it should have defended Lineker’s right to voice views which may be unpalatable to others.
"The BBC has undermined its own reputation for impartiality by caving into the demands of the right-wing press and loudmouth Tory MPs.”
Tonight’s edition of Match of the Day won’t have a studio presenter or pundits, the BBC confirmed on Friday evening and now over 10,700 tweets have been posted under the hashtag #BoycottMOTD.
“#BoycottMOTD watch the highlights on YouTube, Sky show them all, or through your clubs' pages,” one fan declared on Twitter.
Another fan said: “MOTD to air without presenter or pundits after Gary Lineker’s suspension. BBC commentators also refusing to appear in solidarity with Lineker. Solidarity - you just can’t beat it. #BoycottMOTD.”
While a third person urged other social media users to join in the boycott. They wrote: “Joining Ian Wright & Alan Shearer, in #Solidarity with Gary Lineker, I won't be watching MOTD again until @GaryLineker is reinstated with no conditions. I invite you to join me & RT. #BoycottMOTD.”
Someone else shared: “I'm not the biggest of football fans but I do support freedom of speech. I think there should be a mass boycott of #matchoftheday #MOTD hit the #BBC with there ratings and show support for #freedomofspeech #FreedomOfExpression #BoycottBBC #BoycottMOTD @GaryLineker.”