Former footballer Gary Lineker called for more “compassion, empathy, and kindness” towards refugees and asylum seekers on Wednesday as he accepted an award for his human rights advocacy from Amnesty International.
The rights group described Lineker as a “a staunch advocate for the rights of refugees and migrants.”
Known for presenting BBC’s “Match of the Day” for almost 25 years, Lineker was temporarily suspended from his hosting duties in March this year after criticizing the UK government’s asylum seeker policy.
Lineker received his award alongside Palestinian footballer Natali Shaheen, winner of Amnesty’s “Sport and Human Rights” prize.
Shaheen, who plays for FC Athena Sassari in Italy, was “recognized for highlighting the social, political and economic difficulties Palestinian women face in playing football,” Amnesty said.
‘In the end, common sense prevailed’
The short-lived decision to suspend Lineker prompted a debate over impartially, with numerous pundits boycotting the show.
The BBC initially stated that they considered Lineker’s social media activity to be a “breach of our guidelines.” Several days later, the public broadcaster’s Director General announced a review of the BBC’s social media guidance and said Lineker would be reinstated.
Speaking at the award ceremony in Rome, Lineker expanded on his perspective.
“All I was trying to say really was that I think we have to be careful with the language that we use towards people that have to flee their country because of persecution, or possibly climate change,” he said.
“I think sometimes we find it difficult to understand what these people who have to flee their country are going through,” Lineker continued, adding, “obviously no country can take everybody. But I think we need to find safe and legal routes and we need to do as much as we possibly can to do our fair share and to show kindness.”
“That was all that my point was trying to be and then it kind of spiraled a little bit out of control. But in the end, common sense prevailed,” he concluded.
Lineker also spoke about his experience hosting refugees at his house, calling it a “really really positive experience” for him and his sons.
“We are lucky to be in a place where my four sons have a very entitled life,” Lineker said, adding that the experience “gave them a real perspective.”