Match of the Day presenters Ian Wright and Alan Shearer have said they will not appear on tomorrow’s edition of the BBC’s Premier League highlights show after lead presenter Gary Lineker was asked to step back from coverage after breaking the broadcaster’s impartiality rules on Twitter.
“Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me,” wrote in a Tweet Friday evening, “but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.”
Shortly after, Shearer followed suit tweeting: “I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night.”
Former Arsenal footballer and popular BBC presenter Alex Scott also posted a meme on Twitter that features a clip of Bernie Sanders saying “nah, not me” with the caption “FYI.” Many have interpreted the post as Scott also bowing out of Match Of The Day duties.
The BBC announced the decision to pull Lineker back from the popular highlights show on Friday afternoon after “extensive discussions” with Lineker, in which the sports presenter was told that his tweet comparing UK government policy to Nazi Germany was unacceptable.
On Tuesday, Lineker railed at “beyond awful” British government plans to stop small boats carrying asylum seekers from arriving on British shores.
Lineker later added: “We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. 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.”
The BBC said Lineker was being benched while it figured out how the presenter can voice his views on social media in a way that is compatible with the corporation’s duty to impartiality. The news came despite Lineker telling his 8.7M Twitter followers on Thursday that he would be hosting Match of the Day as usual on Saturday. Lineker has repeatedly defended his original tweets.
Deadline reported earlier this week that BBC insiders were furious with Lineker for his “egregious” breach of impartiality rules. Some called for him to be suspended.
Lineker’s suspension has also prompted criticism of the BBC from across the political spectrum. On Friday, the opposition Labour party said the BBC’s decision was “cowardly” and an “assault on free speech in the face of political pressure.”
Broadcaster Piers Morgan said in a Tweet that Lineker’s suspension was “pathetically spineless.”
“WTF? How pathetically spineless.. I now demand the BBC suspend every presenter who has made public comment about news or current affairs – starting with Sir David Attenborough and Lord Sugar,” Morgan’s Tweet read.
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