(JTA) — The BBC announced Monday that it would return top sports broadcaster Gary Lineker to the air Saturday after the network briefly suspended the soccer host for a tweet comparing a British policy to Nazi Germany’s.
Britain announced a new immigration package last week that includes an agreement with France on a new migrant detention center, as well as a policy of refusing asylum to people who arrive illegally.
Lineker, a former soccer star who has hosted the BBC’s leading soccer show for 25 years, took to Twitter to voice his opposition to the new proposal.
“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,” Lineker tweeted Tuesday to his almost 9 million followers, in apparent response to a since-deleted tweet.
Lineker did not elaborate on his comparison. It was other countries declining to admit Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany that was the most notable refugee-related decision of the era.
Still, his comparison ignited criticism, including from Britain’s home secretary Suella Braverman, who announced the new policy and whose husband is Jewish.
“My children are … directly descendant from people who were murdered in gas chambers,” Braverman said, according to the Guardian. “To kind of throw out those kind of flippant analogies diminishes the unspeakable tragedy that millions of people went through and I don’t think anything that is happening in the UK today can come close to what happened in the Holocaust.”
The BBC said Lineker’s comments had violated its “impartiality” policy requiring presenters to “keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.”
Lineker was told by BBC brass to apologize, or he would be taken off the air for the program he hosts, “Match of the Day.” He refused to apologize and was suspended.
The suspension prompted walkouts and protests by Lineker’s BBC colleagues, as well public support from fellow media personalities such as Piers Morgan.
Though technically a freelancer, Lineker is the BBC’s highest-paid on-air personality. In 2022, he earned 1.35 million pounds (about $1.6 million).
The government-funded broadcast network has also faced pressure before from Jewish groups over its coverage of Israel and Jewish issues; the groups have called on the network to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which bars comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany but does not include other Holocaust comparisons.
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