Gary Lineker was never booked in his 16-year playing career but the former England striker is in danger of being shown the red card by his employer, the BBC, for standing up for refugees trying to make their way to Britain.
Lineker has hosted the BBC’s flagship football show “Match of the Day” for more than 20 years and the charismatic 62-year-old has never been afraid to voice his opinions about political issues like Brexit.
As the BBC’s highest-paid employee, Lineker is the face of its sports coverage.
Although the corporation has strict impartiality guidelines, that has not stopped Lineker from airing his views on Twitter where he has over 8.7 million followers.
Matters came to a head on Tuesday when Britain’s interior minister Suella Braverman outlined proposals to stop almost all migrants crossing the Channel. Lineker described the policy as “beyond awful” and “immeasurably cruel”.
Lineker wrote on Twitter that the language used in the proposals was not dissimilar to that of Nazi Germany, forcing the BBC to have a “frank conversation” with the presenter after Braverman’s complaint.
Lineker doubled down on Wednesday, saying he would continue to speak for those who had no voice.
“I have never known such love and support in my life than I’m getting this morning (England World Cup goals aside, possibly). I want to thank each and every one of you,” he added on Twitter.
Reuters has contacted the BBC for comment.
As a footballer, Lineker’s poaching instincts made him one of the most prolific strikers in the game, although major silverware eluded him.
He made his professional debut for Leicester City in 1978-79 and went on to make over 500 club appearances for the Foxes, Everton, Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur and Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight, scoring nearly 300 goals.
He earned his first England cap in 1984 and by the time he retired was the country’s second-highest scorer with 48 goals, behind Bobby Charlton. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane have since overtaken both.
Lineker played 80 times for his country and his four goals at the 1990 World Cup despite being unwell propelled England to the semi-finals.
Having also top-scored at the 1986 World Cup with six goals, no English player has come close to eclipsing his record of 10 goals at football’s global showpiece event, earning him a spot in English Football’s Hall of Fame.
Following his retirement, Lineker embarked on a media career, working as a football pundit before taking over as Match of the Day host while also writing columns for British newspapers.
Midway through the 2015-16 campaign, Lineker went viral on social media when he promised to present Match of the Day wearing just his underwear if his former club Leicester went on to win the Premier League title.
Leicester beat overwhelming odds to lift the trophy and Lineker duly kept his word, presenting the first Match of the Day of the following season wearing nothing but white boxer shorts.
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