The BBC has made a major U-turn and pulled Gary Lineker off the air after the Match of the Day host compared the UK’s migrant policy to 1930s Germany.
The former England footballer had been due to appear on the BBC’s flagship sports show on Saturday night, but the corporation has now decided to replace him with another presenter.
The move comes after Lineker sparked a furious backlash when he tweeted a link to a news story about the government’s new immigration policy, which he compared to the Nazi regime’s treatment of Jews in the 1930s.
The tweet, which was later deleted, read: “The treatment by some towards these young refugees is hideously racist and utterly heartless. What’s happening to our country?”
The tweet sparked a huge backlash from Conservative MPs and other right-wing commentators, who accused Lineker of “trivialising the Holocaust” and “spreading lies”.
The BBC initially defended Lineker, saying that he was “entitled to express his opinion”. But the corporation has now decided to pull him from the show, in what is being seen as a major U-turn.
In a statement, the BBC said: “We have decided to replace Gary Lineker on this week’s Match of the Day. We believe this is the right decision and we will be making no further comment.”
The move has been welcomed by some, who said it was the right decision for the BBC to make. But others have criticised the decision, saying that Lineker should not be silenced for expressing his opinion.
The incident has also sparked a wider debate about freedom of speech and the role of the BBC in policing its presenters’ comments.
Lineker, who has been a presenter on Match of the Day since 1999, has yet to comment on the BBC’s decision. But he has previously defended his right to express his opinion, saying: “I’m not a politician, I’m a football presenter. I’m entitled to an opinion.”
The BBC’s decision to pull Lineker off the air is a major U-turn, and it remains to be seen how the corporation will handle similar situations in the future. But for now, it appears that the BBC has decided that it is not willing to risk the controversy that comes with allowing its presenters to express their opinions.