BBC coverage of the Gary Lineker crisis. BBC coverage of the Gary Lineker crisis. (@ScottyGB on Twitter.)

One of the more dramatic work actions we’ve seen in a while comes at the British Broadcasting Corporation. After the BBC asked Match of the Day pundit Gary Lineker to “step away” Friday following disagreement over his use of social media to support refugees and criticize a British government migration bill, his colleagues Ian Wright and Alan Shearer announced they wouldn’t appear on the show either.

That situation was already notable Friday afternoon. But it’s since escalated much further. We’ve seen the rest of the Saturday Match of the Day commentators withdrawing, Jermaine Defoe withdrawing from Match of the Day 2 on Sunday, the Professional Footballers’ Association stating that players and managers would not participate in Match of the Day interviews, other presenters announcing they’d also pull out of their own shows (including Alex Scott of Football Focus, Jason Mohammad of Final Score, and Glenn Murray of both those programs), and to the BBC replacing those shows (and shows from other sports, including Colin Murray’s Fighting Talk) with other programming and apologizing for their “limited sport programming”:

As Henry Winter of The Telegraph noted, this has led to quite the run of internal BBC memos as well:

Meanwhile, League One side Forest Green saw chairman Dale Vince saying they won’t speak to the BBC until Lineker is back on air:

The BBC also took strong criticism from two opposition leaders, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey. From Starmer:

The BBC is not acting impartially by caving in to Tory MPs who are complaining about Gary Lineker.

They got this one badly wrong and now they’re very, very exposed.

As is the government, because at the heart of this is the government’s failure on the asylum system. And rather than take responsibility for the mess they’ve made, the government is casting around to blame anybody else – Gary Lineker, the BBC, civil servants, the ‘blob’.

What they should be doing is standing up, accepting they’ve broken the asylum system, and telling us what they’re going to do to actually fix it, not whingeing on about Gary Lineker.

From Davey:

This saga has shown failure at the very top of the BBC and the dire need to urgently protect their independence.

We need leadership at the BBC that upholds our proud British values and can withstand today’s consistently turbulent politics and Conservative bullying tactics.

Sadly, under Richard Sharp’s leadership, this has not been the case: his appointment and position are now totally untenable and he must resign.

The BBC should be a champion of freedom of speech and must overhaul their current rules and judgment on impartiality. They can’t continue to play by rules that are so one-sided.

The Conservative Government has systematically attacked and undermined the independence of our BBC. That’s not in the best interests of our country and our democracy and Liberal Democrats will fiercely stand up against this.

As has been noted, too, the BBC social media policy doesn’t really seem to cover what Lineker did, specifically citing “a sports or science presenter expressing views on politics or the arts” as “lower risk”:

On a lighter note, this has led to some of the always-amusing on-air scenes and discussion of an outlet trying to report on itself:

We’ll see what happens with the Lineker situation going forward. But the collective action in support of him has certainly altered the BBC’s sports programming this weekend. And while they’ve said they plan to go ahead with a just-highlights Match of the Daythat may be without commentary thanks to rights issues. So it makes for a very different weekend of BBC sports coverage, and potentially may lead to further changes down the road as well.

[The Guardian; image from Scott Bryan on Twitter]

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.