Let Gary Lineker Speak: Why His Right to Free Speech Matters More Than Your Discomfort

Gary Lineker, Ian Wright and Alan Shearer
Gary Lineker, Ian Wright and Alan Shearer

We must all defend Gary Lineker’s right to Free speech

Gary Lineker has been forced off his Match of the Day duties by the BBC because he won’t apologise for his comments on social media.

This came after his Tweet where he expressed his views on the recently proposed small boat legislation announced by the government.

In the Tweet, Gary Lineker states:

“There is no huge influx. 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?”

Gary Lineker’s suspension from his role on Match of the Day sparked a debate about the right to free speech. Some have applauded his decision, while others have criticised it. But regardless of what one may think of Mr Lineker, there can be no denying that he has the right to express his views and opinions without fear of censorship or retribution, and before we continue, no one says he is wrong in his opinion, nither am I saying he his right. However he does have the fundamental right to say it.

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. As a descendant from that Leveller family and 1x cousin to Freeborn John, although 11x removed, I have always believed in the right to free speech after all my family has a long history of living and dying for our rights to free speech. In our increasingly politically correct world, it seems that many have forgotten that free speech is the cornerstone of any truly democratic society. It is what allows us to express our opinions and beliefs, no matter how controversial or unpopular they may be.

It is easy to forget, in this age of social media and cancel culture, that the right to free speech was hard-won. It was not so long ago that individuals were persecuted and even imprisoned for expressing their beliefs. We cannot allow this to happen again. We must defend the right to free speech, not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

Of course, there are those who argue that certain views and opinions should not be expressed, that they are harmful or offensive. But who gets to decide what is harmful or offensive? Should it be left to the whims of the politically correct mob? I think not.

As Christopher Hitchens once said, “To be offended is the natural consequence of leaving one’s home.” We cannot expect to go through life without encountering views and opinions that we find uncomfortable or offensive. The answer is not to silence those views, but to engage with them in a civil and respectful manner.

We are now at the point where someone once again may be facing losing their job because his opinion outside of that job has upset someone else.

Gary Lineker forced out of role as Match of the Day presenter

The BBC said in a statement that the presenter will “step back” from hosting the weekly football highlights programme.

But, it’s understood that Lineker has not agreed to this, and believes the wording is incorrect.

A source close to the presenter told Sky News that the corporation has taken him off air, as he is unwilling to apologise and admit he should not have made the comments.

Following the announcement, football pundit Ian Wright said he will not take part in tomorrow’s Match of the Day programme in “solidarity” with Lineker.

Alan Shearer also said he will not appear on the programme on Saturday night.

The BBC said Lineker will not present the show until an agreement is reached on his social media use, after he was embroiled in a row over impartiality by comparing the language used to launch a new government asylum policy with 1930s Germany.

The corporation said in a statement it has been in “extensive discussions with Gary and his team in recent days”.

“We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines,” the statement added.

“The BBC has decided that he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media.”

While his decision has been met with mixed reactions, one thing is clear: he has the right to express his views and opinions, whether we agree with them or not.

The statement continued: “When it comes to leading our football and sports coverage, Gary is second to none. We have never said that Gary should be an opinion-free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.”

It comes after the presenter, 62, said on Thursday that he would be presenting Match of the Day on Saturday as usual after several days of intense criticism over his Twitter posts.

A tweet from Lineker had suggested he was not reprimanded by the BBC for his comments about the small boats policy despite criticism from some politicians.

“Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days,” he wrote on Thursday.

“Happy that this ridiculously out of proportion story seems to be abating and very much looking forward to presenting @BBCMOTD on Saturday.

“Thanks again for all your incredible support. It’s been overwhelming.”

BBC ‘told me I have to step back’

Channel 5 News presenter Dan Walker said Lineker told him “they’ve [the BBC] told me I have to step back”.

Speaking on Channel 5 News, Walker said: “It’s one of those strange situations where I’m actually texting the man himself (Lineker) at the moment.

“And I have asked Gary Lineker the question about whether he is stepping back or whether the BBC have told him to step back and I’ve told him that if he responds to me that I will read out that text on air.

“There’s one word in there I can’t use, but he has said ‘No, they’ve told me I have to step back’.

“So Gary Lineker wants to continue to present Match of the Day and is not apologising for what he’s said but he’s said it’s a BBC decision to force him to not present the programme at the moment.”

Lineker told reporters outside his London home on Thursday that he stood by his criticism of the government and was not worried about being suspended from the BBC.

His initial controversial tweet saw him compare the language used to announce the government’s policy with 1930s Germany.

It sparked a row over whether he broke BBC impartiality rules.

The former England striker is a freelance broadcaster for BBC Sport.

As he is not a permanent staff member and is not responsible for news or political content, he is not required to adhere to the same regulations on impartiality.

The BBC will now come under a “torrent of criticism” from people who think it is acting “at the government’s behest”, the BBC’s former controller of editorial policy has said.

Richard Ayre, tells BBC Radio 4’s PM programme that the BBC had “no choice” but to take action against Lineker after his tweets criticising the government’s asylum policy.

“He [Lineker] has the letters BBC written across his forehead and yet he’s plunged right into the most controversial story of the day,” he says.

“The fact is this was an immediate issue which Tim Davie, the Director General, couldn’t sit on over the weekend, he had to solve it this week.

“He’s clearly tried to solve it and reach an agreement with Gary Lineker, they’ve failed, so this has been the BBC decision. Whether this story moves on depends on what Gary Lineker says himself in the next few hours.

“It’s inevitable now that, having in effect not sacked him but removed him temporarily at least, the BBC will come under a torrent of criticism saying it’s acting under the government’s behest.”

The last time I looked it was a free country…

For all the right-wingers up in arms at Lineker’s response to recent legislation you really should remember the words you often use, “it’s a free country, and i’ll say what I want!”

The right to free speech is a fundamental human right that must be defended at all costs. Gary Lineker, like all of us, has the right to express his views and opinions without fear of censorship or retribution.

We may not always agree with what he has to say, but that is not the point. The point is that he has the right to say it. So let us stand up for the right to free speech, and let Gary Lineker speak.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

It really doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with what Gary Linker said the fact is last time I looked this was a free country and even if you do have a platform relating to your job you have the right not only to an opinion but to express that opinion how you wish.

In recent years, we have seen a worrying trend towards censorship and the suppression of free speech. Individuals and groups have attempted to silence those with views that they do not agree with from both sides of the political spectrum, claiming that such views are offensive or harmful. But who gets to decide what is offensive or harmful? The answer is simple: no one should.

The very nature of free speech means that individuals should be free to express themselves without fear of retribution or censorship. Of course, this does not mean that people should be able to say whatever they want without consequences. Hate speech and incitement to violence are not protected under the right to free speech, and those who engage in such behaviour should be held accountable.

However, we must be careful not to allow the definition of hate speech to be expanded to cover any views that some may find uncomfortable or unpopular. This is a slippery slope that could lead to the erosion of our fundamental human rights.

It is important to remember that free speech is not just about the ability to express one’s own views and opinions. It is also about the ability to listen to and engage with the views and opinions of others, even if we do not agree with them. Only through open and honest dialogue can we hope to understand and learn from each other.

In the words of Christopher Hitchens, “The right to free speech is more important than the content of the speech.” We must protect this right at all costs, even when we disagree with the views being expressed. Only then can we truly call ourselves a free and democratic society.

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