Gary Lineker, the former Tottenham, Leicester and England striker who went on to become the BBC’s best-paid presenter, has not shied away from airing his views over the years.
Before the latest controversy, which was sparked after he suggested that language being used by the home secretary, Suella Braverman, “is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”, there have been other interventions.
Lineker came out in favour of voting for the UK to remain in the EU in the run-up to the 2016 referendum. “Personally I believe there are plenty of reasons to remain but barely any to leave. Love Europe, love being part of Europe. #Remain” he told his followers on Twitter.
Lineker joined those voicing concern after the Conservative MP David Davies and sections of the British media called for dental tests to verify the ages of child refugees. “The treatment by some towards these young refugees is hideously racist and utterly heartless. What’s happening to our country?” he tweeted.
Commenting on a UK political landscape in which Theresa May led a pro-Brexit Conservative party while Jeremy Corbyn headed a Labour party tacking to the left, Lineker asked Twitter: “Anyone else feel politically homeless?”
“Everything seems far right or way left. Something sensibly centrist might appeal?” he added, prompted pleas from followers to set up a new centrist party in the style of the French president Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche.
A campaign for a second EU referendum, known as the People’s Vote, was endorsed by Lineker, who said: “Some things in life are more important than football.” A rally in London four months later as part of the campaign for a second EU referendum featured an appearance by the television presenter, who said it was becoming clear that there were very few positives to leaving the EU.
Lineker was criticised by a senior BBC news journalist, who accused him of breaching impartiality over comments in which he criticised the government for sewage being discharged into coastal waters. “As a politician how could you ever, under any circumstances, bring yourself to vote for pumping sewage into our seas? Unfathomable!” Lineker had tweeted.
Neil Henderson, a BBC home and foreign news editor, later apologised to Lineker after telling his colleague: “The BBC lives or dies by its impartiality. If you can’t abide it, get off it.”
The BBC subsequently found Lineker in breach of its impartiality guidelines after he tweeted about the Conservative party taking money from Russian donors. He made the comment while responding to the then foreign secretary, Liz Truss. She had said English football teams should not play in the Champions League final, then scheduled to be held in Russia, because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Lineker quote tweeted Truss’s demand with the observation: “And her party will hand back their donations from Russian donors?”
Lineker was among those who criticised the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, after he suggested LGBTQ+ football fans should be “respectful” of Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal, if they visited the country for the World Cup. “Whatever you do, don’t do anything gay. Is that the message?” said Lineker, quote tweeting a journalist who reported Cleverly’s comments.
Before the World Cup in Qatar, Lineker described the US as an “extraordinarily racist” country. He was speaking on the News Agents podcast, where he made the comments after Qatari organisers claimed he had not criticised western hosts of the tournament in the same way.
The then culture secretary, Michelle Donelan, later criticised Lineker, suggesting the BBC should be “conscious” of his comments.