Gary Lineker has claimed that climate fanatics who wreaked havoc on London’s roads can be remembered as ‘heroes’, having headed to Rome to collect an award for his political activism.
The Match of the Day host gave his opinion on yet another controversial political issue, expressing his support for the tactics of eco-fanatics who have continued to block traffic in recent months.
It came as the 62-year-old received a ‘sports and human rights award’ from Amnesty International, the humanitarian organization, which described him as a ‘staunch advocate for the rights of refugees and migrants’.
He was accused of throwing a “self-congratulations party” to Italy after his Nazi jibe against Interior Secretary Suella Braverman.
The Match Of The Day presenter was taken off the air in March after refusing to back down after comparing the government’s language on asylum seekers to 1930s Germany.
The 62-year-old (left) received a “sports and human rights award” from Amnesty International, the humanitarian organization, which described him as a “staunch advocate for the rights of refugees and migrants”. Pictured with Croatian former international and UEFA chief of football Zvonimir Boban (right)
The Match Of The Day presenter was taken off the air in March after refusing to back down after comparing the government’s language on asylum seekers to 1930s Germany
Since the start of the action on April 24, 78 marches have taken place in the capital. Pictured: Encounter officers during a Just Stop Oil protest
It caused a major crisis for the BBC and a humiliating climb down when Lineker struck a deal that allowed him to tweet about refugees and climate change.
And the decision to accept the award drew backlash from Tory MPs earlier this week, who said the former footballer should choose whether to become a BBC star or an activist.
After receiving his award today, the BBC’s highest-paid presenter, who earns £1.35 million a year, threatened to spark another row by getting involved in the stunts of eco-groups such as Just Stop Oil (JSO).
Hours earlier, the Metropolitan Police revealed there had been 78 so-called slow marches on London’s roads since April 24, 60 of which resulted in the removal of protesters. In the same period there were 45 arrests.
Lineker told Channel 4 News: ‘I find it very worrying that we lock up people who are really trying to make sure we have some sort of future.
“I understand why people get upset because it’s a disruptive demonstration, but history tells you that the only demonstrations that really work are disruptive demonstrations, so it’s a tough one.
“It’s not about blaming our government for not doing enough about climate change, it’s the whole world.”
The presenter then called on the world to “find a way out” of “over-reliance on fossil fuels.”
He was accused of throwing a “self-congratulations party” to Italy after his Nazi jibe against Interior Secretary Suella Braverman. Pictured: Gary Lineker received his award in Rome along with soccer player Natali Shaheen
It caused a major crisis for the BBC and a humiliating climb down when Lineker struck a deal that allowed him to tweet about refugees and climate change
After a social media user – named Paul – said the only award he deserved was a ‘Virtue-Signalling World Champion’, the unrepentant star snapped back: ‘Your bitterness makes it even sweeter’
New figures show 11,000 Met officer services lost over the past month to policing the demonstrations
Scotland Yard had previously revealed that the cost of overseeing JSO’s persistent stunts – which have led to angry clashes with motorists – has cost more than £3million. In the photo: protest on May 22
He continued: “We should all be trying to get governments to do it, not just rely on a few people doing things knowing they’re likely to be locked up and I admire that in a way.
“I know it pisses a lot of people off, but that’s kind of what they want, because it’s the only way it gets known.
“I think if we manage to save humanity, 50 years from now or 100 years from now, they will look back on people like that (XR and JSO) and Greta Thunberg and people like that, who really made a difference and they should someday the heroes could be.’
After a social media user — named Paul — said the only award he deserved was a “Virtue-Signalling World Champion,” the unrepentant star snapped back, “Your bitterness makes it even sweeter.”
Scotland Yard had previously revealed that the cost of overseeing JSO’s persistent stunts – which have led to angry clashes with motorists – has cost more than £3million.
On Monday, Tory MPs demanded that Lineker consider his position at the BBC as he prepared to fly to Italy to collect the award.
Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet, said: ‘It’s another complacent party from one awakened group to another awakened activist.’
Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford, said: ‘Gary Lineker has to decide whether he wants to be a politician or a public broadcaster. He can’t do both.
And now the company is facing another headache from its highest-paid star after it was announced that he would be attending an awards ceremony hosted by Amnesty International in Rome on Wednesday.
Lineker’s inflammatory tweet comparing language of ministers to migration to ‘Germany in the 1930s’
“Again, he thinks the rules of being a public broadcaster don’t apply to him. He wants to eat his cake and that too.
“He wants his high salary from a public broadcaster and then flies to Rome to join his political friends, well, he can’t go both ways.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Lineker said the experience of receiving the award was “strange and surreal.”
He also addressed the political furore that led to his being taken off the air, at the ceremony: “What I was trying to say was I think we have to be careful about 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 have to show them compassion, empathy and kindness.”
Lineker received his award together with Palestinian football player Natali Shaheen.
However, Lineker was praised for championing refugees in a country led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who has warned of “an invasion” of migrants and refugees.
Earlier this year, she unveiled new policies that tighten the country’s approach to migrants seeking asylum and introduce tougher penalties for people smugglers.
Amnesty International, a human rights organization, has previously called for Lineker to be allowed to express his views on refugees, despite his interventions which have consistently led to the BBC being accused of bias.
Sir John Hayes, Chairman of the Commonsense Members of Parliament, added: ‘This award is regrettable, but also rather pathetic.
“Maybe it’s time Gary hung up his mike like he did his boots a long time ago.”
Amnesty International said the ‘sport and human rights prize’, now in its fifth year, is part of a collaboration between the group and Italian organization Sport4Society.
Ms Braverman said she found Mr Lineker’s comments ‘disappointing’
The award is intended to ‘highlight outstanding contributions to human rights in the field of sport’.
Earlier this year, Lineker tweeted in response to the government’s draft law that would ban migrants crossing the Channel in small boats from seeking asylum.
He said the policy “used language not unlike that used in Germany in the 1930s.”
Lineker was taken off the air, but after other presenters also refused to appear on football shows in solidarity, he was allowed to return. The BBC declined to comment last night.