Gary Lineker will take a step back from presenting “Match of the Day,” the iconic British football show, following controversy about a tweet he wrote earlier in the week, the BBC announced on Friday.
On Tuesday, Lineker tweeted “Good heavens, this is beyond awful” to a video posted on Twitter by the British Home Office announcing the government’s asylum seeker policy.
He then continued to write: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. 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, and I’m out of order?”
A statement from the BBC said the decision for Lineker to step back followed “extensive discussions” with the former England international and his team.
“We have said that we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines,” the statement said.
“The BBC has decided that he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media.
“When it comes to leading our football and sports coverage, Gary is second to none. We have never said that Gary should be an opinion free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on party political issues or political controversies.”
Lineker’s team declined to comment on the BBC statement when contacted by CNN.
No presenters or pundits will appear on this Saturday’s Match of the Day show, after a series of statements of support for Lineker.
Former football players Alan Shearer and Ian Wright both announced on Twitter that they had told the BBC they would not appear on the show.
“I have informed the BBC that I won’t be appearing on MOTD tomorrow night,” Shearer wrote on Twitter.
“Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity,” Wright tweeted.
“Some of our pundits have said that they don’t wish to appear on the programme while we seek to resolve the situation with Gary. We understand their position and we have decided that the programme will focus on match action without studio presentation or punditry,” a BBC spokesperson said on Friday evening.
Dan Walker, a former BBC Breakfast and Football Focus presenter, also tweeted: “I used to sit in for Gary Lineker on MOTD… not sure I’d fancy it this weekend. What a mess!”
Later on Friday, BBC commentators Steve Wilson, Conor McNamara, Robyn Cowen and Steven Wyeth also announced their decision to step down from this week’s show in a joint statement.
“As commentators on MOTD, we have decided to step down from tomorrow night’s broadcast,” said the statement.
“We are comforted that football fans who want to watch their teams should still be able to do so, as management can use World Feed commentary if they wish. However, in the circumstances, we do not feel it would be appropriate to take part in the programme.”
Meanwhile, the BECTU union who represent BBC staff, expressed their concern on Friday about the BBC’s decision.
“This is a deeply concerning decision from the BBC. It will give the appearance that they have bowed to political pressure from ministers to take someone off air for disagreeing with the policies of the current government,” the Head of BECTU, Philippa Childs said in a statement.
“Taken with the ongoing controversy over the appointment of the BBC Chairman, who has a much more important role in upholding the reputation of the BBC, and who has not stepped back while under investigation, it also risks given the impression of double standards on these issues.”