Self Esteem backs Gary Lineker amid BBC row by wearing “Free Gary” t-shirt at London gig

Self Esteem and Gary Linekar

Self Esteem showed her support for Gary Lineker last night (March 11) by wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Free Gary” at her Eventim Apollo show in London.

The singer-songwriter – real name is Rebecca Lucy Taylor – shared on Twitter an image of herself sporting the tee at the show, writing “Solidarity” and tagging the BBC Sport presenter.

She has followed in the footsteps of Fatboy Slim, who on Friday (March 10) displayed Lineker’s face on a video screen behind him. The move was met by huge cheers from fans who were watching the DJ perform in Manchester.

It comes amid a row between the BBC and Lineker after the latter on Tuesday (March 7) called the government’s controversial plan to ban people arriving in the UK illegally from ever claiming asylum an “immeasurably cruel”. Linekar added that the policy is “directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.

Conservative MPs and ministers including the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is spearheading the policy, have called Linkear’s remarks “unhelpful”. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told LBC radio earlier this week that Linekar’s words were “deeply offensive”.

On Friday the BBC suspended Linekar from presenting its flagship Saturday football highlights programme Match Of The Day until “we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media”.

After it was confirmed that Lineker would not be appearing on Match Of The Day yesterday (March 11), fellow presenters Ian Wright and Alan Shearer announced they would not be appearing – in “solidarity” with Lineker.

Other BBC Sport presenters with adjacent programmes followed suit. A stripped-down version of Match Of The Day was broadcast without commentary or punditry.

Gary Linekar
Gary Linekar. CREDIT: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

According to an interview with Linekar’s son, George, in the Daily Mirror, the former football star will never apologise for his comments.

Linekar has commented little in public since the fall-out, however he told doorstepping reporters on Thursday (March 9) that he of “course” stands by his views and said “no” when asked if he feared being suspended.

Many people online have cast doubt over the motivations behind the BBC’s decision owing to the fact that Linekar is a freelance contractor working within sport and has therefore appeared not to have breached the BBC’s editorial compliance guidelines.

But the BBC has said that the presenter and former England footballer’s “recent social media activity [was considered] to be a breach of our guidelines” and that he should “keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies”.

Since then, the BBC’s director general Tim Davie has been interviewed by BBC News over the controversy. When questioned by a reporter that if Lineker had said that he supported Braverman’s policy “would you have removed him from air?” Davie replied, “I’m not going to go through all the hypotheticals.”

Elsewhere, people on Twitter have been debating the guidelines and sharing official responses sent to them by the BBC’s complaints department in response to the move and asking for clarity on perceived similar examples.

Some have pointed to former BBC Newsnight presenter Andrew Neil sending opinionated tweets about politics, only to be told that he was employed on a freelance basis and therefore no guidance was breached.

Chris Packham, who presents the BBC’s nature show Springwatch, highlighted comments made by Alan Sugar, who fronts the BBC’s business reality series The Apprentice.

In a screengrab of one of Sugar’s old tweets, the businessman suggests that the Secretary-General for the RMT Mick Lynch should “waive” his salary for “bringing the country and ordinary people down on their knees” over train strikes during the 2022 festive period.

“How about some essential balance?” Packham began in his tweet. “Just like Gary this bloke is sometimes employed by the BBC for his respected expertise. He too presents his views publicly. Just wondering if anyone in the government wants to retrospectively kick off about these tweets? Nah, don’t suppose so.”

Packham is also a freelancer and has been pulled into the debate, with people online sharing examples of responses from the BBC’s complaints team about his social media use.

The post Self Esteem backs Gary Lineker amid BBC row by wearing “Free Gary” t-shirt at London gig appeared first on NME.