Gary Lineker, former English soccer star, to return to BBC show after tweets critical of UK government
Gary Lineker will return as host of BBC’s premier soccer program “Match of the Day” following the controversy over critical tweets of Britain’s new migration policy.
The BBC received immense backlash for removing Lineker from the program over his tweets comparing the language in the policy to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The program was shortened over the weekend as his co-hosts backed Lineker and vowed to stay on the sidelines if he was suspended.
The outlet made an about-face on Monday.
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“Gary is a valued part of the BBC and I know how much the BBC means to Gary, and I look forward to him presenting our coverage this coming weekend,” BBC Director-General Tim Davie said, adding that company “did the right thing” with Lineker’s suspension.
Lineker thanked those for backing him in a series of tweets.
“After a surreal few days, I’m delighted that we have navigated a way through this. I want to thank you all for the incredible support, particularly my colleagues at BBC Sport, for the remarkable show of solidarity. Football is a team game but their backing was overwhelming,” he wrote.
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“I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost 3 decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday.
“A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heartwarming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you.”
Lineker made his controversial tweet last week and it led to U.K. officials calling for his dismissal from the TV program.
“There is no huge influx,” he tweeted Tuesday. “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, and I’m out of order?”
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The 62-year-old has been the chief presenter on the show since 1999. “Match of the Day” on Saturday aired with no commentary and only featured shortened footage. The show aired for 20 minutes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.