Gary Lineker hits back at Tory MPs attacking him over ‘woke’ human rights award
Gary Lineker says it’s ‘important’ he uses his platform
Gary Lineker has hit back at criticism from Tory MPs over his human rights award.
The Match of the Day host accepted the Sport and Human Rights gong at a ceremony in Rome on Wednesday for “his strong commitment towards immigration and human rights issues”.
Mr Lineker had come under fire from Conservative MPs over the award, which is part of a collaboration between Amnesty International and the Italian organisation Sport4Society.
It comes just months after he slammed the Government’s illegal immigration crackdown in a series of tweets.
But hitting back at criticism from Tory MPs in comments reported by The Guardian, the BBC’s highest-paid star said: “I am for freedom of speech.
“But in my experience of freedom of speech, particularly the people who campaign for freedom of speech, they’re all for it until they disagree with what you’re saying, and I think that’s always important to remember.”
Ahead of the awards ceremony, South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay described it as “another self-congratulatory fest of one woke group to another woke activist”.
Senior Tory Gareth Johnson said: “Gary Lineker needs to decide if he wants to be a politician or a public broadcaster. He can’t do both.”
Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Common Sense Group of Conservative MPs, added: “This award is a matter of regret, but also rather pathetic.
“Perhaps it is time for Gary to hang up his microphone as he did his boots long ago.”
Mr Lineker sparked a BBC impartiality row in March after taking to Twitter to slam the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill and compare language used to that of 1930s Germany.
He was taken off air by the BBC amid calls for him to be sacked, but returned to his Match of the Day presenting role following a boycott by fellow talent.
Speaking on Wednesday, the football pundit called for “compassion, empathy and kindness” towards refugees.
He said: “What I was trying to say was that I think we need to be careful with the language we use towards people who have to flee their countries, because of persecution, because of war and possibly climate change, and I think we need to show them compassion, empathy and kindness.”
In early March, the former England striker retweeted a Home Office video in which Home Secretary Suella Braverman promoted new laws to end Channel crossings and said: “Good heavens, this is beyond awful.”
In a response to a social media user, the football pundit then wrote: “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.”
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