Gary Lineker has said the furore over his tweet about the British government’s asylum policy was “disproportionate”, adding that he believes the issue of impartiality at the BBC is “almost unresolvable”.
The Match of the Day presenter was taken off-air by the broadcaster in March after posting a tweet in which he said the language used by the government to promote its asylum plans was not dissimilar to 1930s Germany.
The 62-year-old later returned to his presenting role following a boycott by top on-air talent.
Lineker, who has received a special international award at a Sport and Human Rights ceremony in Rome, said he will “continue to speak out”.
Talking about the circumstances that led to him being taken off-air, Lineker told Channel 4 News: “I felt vindicated to act, I was never in any doubt that I’d done something horrendously wrong or anything other than support people in dreadful circumstances, fleeing war, fleeing climate change, all kinds of things that can culminate in a person having to leave their home, which is unimaginable, really.
“I think it just got slightly out of control. It was disproportionate. So, I was never overly worried that way.”
Speaking about his view of the British government’s policy on migration, Lineker said: “I disagree with their policy. I think most people do. I don’t know whether it will actually be even legal.
“We’ll see if anyone ever does actually go there. But for me it’s more about the language that’s sometimes used generally across the board. You know, when they use words like ‘criminals’, and ‘rapists’ and ‘invasions’ and ‘swarms’. All I was asking for was a little bit of kindness.”
Lineker also spoke about whether he thought the director-general Tim Davie’s position was weakened as a result of the row and he told Channel 4 News: “I don’t think so – he responded to the way events came through and in the end he kind of turned things around, listened and I think, overall, I don’t see him in a weaker position.
“It’s an incredibly difficult job. Impartiality is really tricky at the BBC and I think it’s an issue that is almost unresolvable.”
The Sport and Human Rights awards, part of a collaboration between Amnesty International and the Italian organisation Sport4Society, are designed to highlight outstanding contributions to human rights in the field of sport.
During Wednesday’s ceremony at the National Federation of the Italian Press, Lineker was given a special international award for his commitment to promoting human rights through his work as a commentator and support for Amnesty UK’s Football Welcomes campaign, which celebrates the contribution players with a refugee background make to the game.
Lineker was described as a “staunch advocate for the rights of refugees and migrants” by Amnesty International.