Poppy scandal: McClean abuse exposes intolerance in Britain

The Irishman is a magnet for abuse because of his refusal to wear a poppy in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday, but he should have the right to do what he wants

In his reply, the temporary IRA star striker Bobby Sands never quoted James McClean any understanding of those fans who had criticized his decision to play for Stoke City without pressing the Royal British Legion's poppy on his shirt.

The McClean – poppy furore comes up again and again without fail, but this year it seems to be particularly hateful. On Saturday evening after Stoke played against Middlesbrough, video footage was shared from the midfielder of Ireland who received a cruel and gallant fight from the payout at the Bet365 stadium.

McClean's message during the weekend on Instagram has in the meantime mentioned, among other things, a "part of uneducated cavemen" in Boothen End in the ground.

The decision of the FA to investigate the comments in which he also described those fans as "c ** ts" will make him a target for further abuse. But at the end of the day McClean is a free man in a free country and therefore has the right to say whatever he wants.

"They have nothing in their entire imperial arsenal that can break the mind of an Irishman who does not want to be broken," he said with the words of Sands, who died at the age of 27 in 1981.

Until then McClean had chosen respectfully and with dignity to play with the emblem on his chest. He explained those reasons in a letter to Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan in 2014.

McClean opposes the historical actions of the British army in his native Derry and has the right to express his opinion. McClean has repeatedly stated in the past that he would indeed carry the poppy if it only commemorated the soldiers who gave their lives in World War I and World War II. But the website of Royal British Legion shows that this is simply not the case.

"The Legion is working to ensure that people in the UK remember all those who have lost their lives in active service to the Crown and the services of the armed forces and veterans, and the contribution of their families – our beneficiary community, honors "a statement reads.

James McClean Stoke Ireland

"Carrying a poppy is a way to show public appreciation for the service and sacrifice of the armed forces, veterans and their families in safeguarding our freedoms and values," goes another.

"The Legion advocates a specific type of remembrance associated with the British forces, those who perished, those who fought with them and next to it," it says about the period until Memorial Sunday.

"The Troubles" are specifically mentioned in this connection by the Legion, alongside the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya that ended with more than 20,000 deaths, the Falkland War, the First and Second Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan and the Balkan Wars of the 1990s .

It is not always easy to digest, but there are entire populations here that do not necessarily think of the Dambusters when they hear the words "British Army." For many, wars have been written in the annals of history in which they are the bad guys. That may not be a reflection of the United Kingdom where McClean is currently making a living, but it is a point of perspective.

The British army was called to Northern Ireland in August 1969 to deal with riots that had arisen in McClean's hometown of Derry, Belfast and elsewhere. That was the start of Operation Banner, which officially lasted until 2007.

And the poppy – with its connotations of British militarism in Northern Ireland – was mainly used there by unionist communities, that is, those on one side of the conflict.

That's the problem with the poppy; it separates people into "us" and "they" where the two sides are irrevocably divided. That is not the fault of James McClean, it is not the fault of those who abuse him. It is a matter of historical interpretation.

Republicans simply can not tolerate a symbol that they claim is collusion, murder, murder and the arming of loyalist terrorist groups. James McClean counts himself as a part of that community.

There are indeed people who wear the poppy to remember the fallen of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, just as there are people who wear it to remind the current active and former members of the British army. And there are people who do not wear them at all.

Indeed, on the street it is that number that outweighs the other. But you would not think if you watch the television. Everyone wears a poppy, except for some notable exceptions. At this time of the year it is a point of controversy because viewers quite literally take notes of who has one and who does not. That's not fair.

What once was a private and voluntary point of reflection has become a strictly directed patriotism. Woe to those who do not stand in line.

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Moreover, teams in English football did not start wearing the poppy until 2010. It is a recent trend, but a trend that has grown abundantly. It brings another question; namely, why should the football game now support the actions of the army when it was not for a large part of the century before?

If English football did not use poppies in the weeks leading up to the Remembrance Sunday, as throughout history, McClean would not be misused. If it concerns players who volunteer them, it would be interesting to see how many people would do that.

Britain is indeed a free and tolerant country, until someone like James McClean does something to test his freedoms and tolerance.