One of the more remarkable displays of collective action from broadcasters in a while came this weekend at the British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC asked pundit Gary Lineker to “step away” from his Match of the Day role following disagreement over his use of social media to support refugees and criticize a British government migration bill. That led to outrage not just from fans, but from many of Lineker’s colleagues, who withdrew from the airwaves as well in support of him. And it led to a remarkable weekend where most of the BBC’s sports programming didn’t air, and the parts that did were more limited than usual. And that’s now led to the corporation striking a deal to get Lineker back on air.

Lineker also offered more thoughts on this on his own Twitter account:

How did we get here? Well, there had been governmental pushback building towards Lineker for some time. On Friday, that led to an announcement that the BBC had asked him to step away from his on-air role until a deal could be struck on his use of social media, with the corporation saying they considered his “recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines.” (It really wasn’t, though, with those guidelines even offering an example of sports personalities commenting on politics or the arts as being “lower risk” than people expressing opinions on the particular areas they worked in.)

That announcement of the removal of Lineker led to widespread and dramatic action. Lineker’s Match of the Day colleagues Alan Shearer and Ian Wright quickly announced their own withdrawals in solidarity. They were soon joined by the rest of the Match of the Day on-air crew, presenters on the BBC’s other soccer shows, and presenters on some of their other sports shows. Opposition political leaders weighed in to bash the BBC, and even the Professional Footballers’ Association stated that players and managers  would not participate in Match of the Day interviews in support of Lineker.

That led to a bizarre weekend where the BBC apologized for an extreme lack of sports content. They did run Match of the Day, but only with highlights sans commentary, and they replaced many of their other sports programs with non-sports programming. And their sports situation didn’t seem tenable going forward with so much support for Lineker and so much backlash against the corporation’s actions. So it makes sense they’ve now struck a deal here. And while the substance of that deal hasn’t been revealed, apart from the launch of an independent review of their social media policies (which, again, it’s not clear Lineker actually violated, but hey, inconsistent discipline for social media posts can occur on both sides of the Atlantic), Lineker being able to still tweet about empathy for refugees suggests he hasn’t been fully silenced by this agreement. We’ll see what comes of this eventual social media policy review, but for now, BBC Sport looks to be heading back to more normalcy.

[BBC Sport on Twitter; top image via BBC News on YouTube]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.