Gary Lineker says he received threats after retweeting call for Israeli sports ban

Despite the backlash, presenter insists the situation is not about him and 'I am not the victim here'

Gary Lineker described social media postings about the Israel-Gaza war as “toxic”. PA
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Former England footballer Gary Lineker has said he received threats after he retweeted and later deleted a social media post that called for Israel to be banned from international sporting events.

The post on X, from the Palestinian Campaign For The Academic And Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which the Match of The Day host reportedly misread, appealed to the International Olympic Committee, Fifa and all regional and international sports governing bodies to take “an urgent stance”.

Lineker told The Guardian about the backlash he received following the retweet, saying he has “received threats” and adding: “It’s not about me. I am not the victim here.”

The presenter, who was temporarily taken off air by the BBC after being caught up in an impartiality row in March, spoke about the Israel-Gaza conflict and described social media postings on the war as “toxic”.

“Everybody I talk to, every single person I know, is going, ‘What? What is happening?’ But the minute you open your mouth – well, not my mouth, but the minute I tweet a little bit – it’s so toxic,” he said.

“If you lean to one side or the other, the levels of attack are extraordinary. How could it be controversial to want peace? I just don’t understand it.

“You don’t need to be Islamophobic to condemn Hamas, or anti-Semitic to condemn Israel. But at the moment it’s just awful. Awful.”

He also said he has tried to limit his time spent on social media sites.

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“Before, if I was killing time … I’d just be trawling through social media, getting irritated and depressed by world news.”

He said he has now replaced hours of scrolling with reading “a lot”.

“I find it difficult to look at social media because I can’t bear looking at little children being killed constantly,” he added.

Lineker was reinstated in his role on the BBC One sporting show in March 2023 after being told to stand down following a tweet in which he compared language used to launch a government asylum seeker policy with 1930s Germany.

He told The Guardian he was deliberate with the phrasing of the tweet and said: “I worded it very carefully, I always do. Anything that is slightly borderline political, I put a lot of thought into.”

Updated: January 20, 2024, 4:30 PM