Petition calling for BBC to reinstate Gary Lineker as Match Of The Day host passes 200,000 signatures
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A petition calling for the BBC to reinstate Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker has now passed 200,000 signatures.
The TV presenter and former footballer was stepped away from the show after he made comments on Twitter in which he criticised the UK government and their recent Illegal Migration Bill.
After the BBC stood Lineker down, a number of other presenters and pundits - including Lineker’s colleagues Alan Shearer, Ian Wright, and Alex Scott - also said that they would not be appearing on various sports shows yesterday in solidarity with the 62-year-old former Leicester City striker.
Last night (11 March), a version of Match of the Day was broadcast without any commentary or presenters, clocking in at around 20 minutes.
However, it seems as if there are a good number of people out there who want Lineker back for next week, as a petition calling for his reinstation has garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures.
The petition, started by the Mirror, states: “Outside the headquarters of the BBC in London is a statue of the writer George Orwell.
“It bears the words: ‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.’
“In a series of tweets Gary Lineker did just that. He told the Government that its policies to tackle illegal migration were inhumane and cruel.
“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.
“To take Lineker off air is not only craven but hypocritical. The BBC chairman, Richard Sharp, remains in place despite helping facilitate a loan guarantee for Boris Johnson.
“Other presenters have not been silenced despite airing right-wing views.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also spoken out on the controversy, reiterating his support for the bill, which many have criticised as ‘cruel’ and ‘callous’.
He said: “As Prime Minister, I have to do what I believe is right, respecting that not everyone will always agree.
“That is why I have been unequivocal in my approach to stopping the boats.
"Gary Lineker was a great footballer and is a talented presenter. I hope that the current situation between Gary Lineker and the BBC can be resolved in a timely manner, but it is rightly a matter for them, not the government.
"While that process is ongoing, it is important that we maintain perspective, particularly given the seriousness of the issue at hand.
"Forty-five thousand people crossed the channel illegally in the past two years, many of whom have been exploited or trafficked by criminal gangs, putting their lives in danger.
“We need to break this cycle of misery once and for all and the policy we set out this week I believe aims to do just that. It is not only the fair and moral thing to do, it is also the compassionate thing to do.
“There are no easy answers to solving this problem, but I believe leadership is about taking the tough decisions to fix problems. I know not everyone will always agree, but I do believe this is fair and right.”
Beforehand, Lineker had tweeted: "This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the '30s, and I'm out of order?"