Gary Lineker’s army of supporters has grown to include a Nobel literature laureate and comedian amid his BBC impartiality row.
The former England striker is at the centre of a public debate about impartiality at the BBC, after he compared a video unveiling the government’s asylum policy to rhetoric used in Germany in the 1930s.
On Friday (11 March), the BBC said it had “decided” the former England star would take a break from presenting the highlights programme until an “agreed and clear position” on his use of social media had been reached.
Following this, the BBC’s sports scheduling descended into chaos on Saturday (11 March) with Match of the Day going ahead without presenters or pundits after both Ian Wright and Alan Shearer pulled out in “solidarity” with Lineker.
Football Focus and Final Score were both pulled from TV schedules at the last minute that day, along with Radio 5 Live’s sport coverage.
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On social media, many famous friends and fans of Lineker have shown support for the presenter using hashtags such as “#IStandWithGary”.
Media personality Vorderman, who regularly tweets criticism of the Government, posted several messages using the hashtag #IStandWithGary.
In a post on Saturday, she visited BBC’s headquarters in London and quoted George Orwell, writing: “If Liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Singer Self Esteem – whose real name is Rebecca Lucy Taylor – showed her support for Lineker during her sold-out show at London’s Eventim Apollo on Saturday night.
Returning for her encore, the “I Do This All The Time” singer appeared on stage in a “Free Gary” t-shirt.
In a photo shared on Instagram, she wrote: “Thank you London. Solidarity @garylineker.”
Actor and comedian Dawn French retweeted a post from a Twitter user which read: “Shakespeare saying stand with Gary Lineker. As only he can”.
The post quoted a passage from Shakespeare’s play Sir Thomas More.
Above the retweeted post, French added: “This. #IStandWithGaryLineker.”
Despite saying he “did not agree” with Lineker’s tweet, Piers Morgan surprised social media users as he offered support for the Match of the Day presenter.
“Gary didn’t say any of it on the BBC, and isn’t even a BBC employee… I didn’t agree with what he said, but so what? It’s HIS opinion.”
During his show at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse on Friday, DJ Fatboy Slim – real name Norman Cook – projected Lineker’s face on screen as part of the visuals for his set.
Lineker’s face was met with loud cheers, with Cook writing on social media: “Enough respect #imwithgary.”
Writer Philip Pullman lent his support to Lineker, Wright and Shearer.
He tweeted: “I hope the BBC finds this all very difficult. Meanwhile, my admiration for Gary Lineker, Ian Wright, and Alan Shearer is unbounded.”
Nobel Literature laureate and football fan Kazuo Ishiguro also backed Lineker.
“I think he’s become one of the really important cultural figures for the country. I think he stands for really good things. I’m fully behind him on this”, he wrote.
Former BBC Newsnight host Emily Maitlis, who was reprimanded by the BBC for retweeting a post from Piers Morgan criticising the Government’s response to the pandemic, said the corporation could face a “bigger battle” following its decision.
“I’m not sure when they suggested to Gary Lineker he step back from #MOTD the BBC realised it might be starting a much much bigger battle”, she wrote.