Sunday 8 December 2019

Opinion: Keyboard warriors should respect, if not agree, with James McClean's poppy stance

James McClean should be respected for his stance on the poppy
James McClean should be respected for his stance on the poppy

Declan Whooley

It's not his first skirmish with the poppy and it's unlikely to be the last, but at the very least, Irish international James McClean deserves respect and understanding for his decision to once again not wear the poppy.

The Derry native has never shied away from his stance on religion, something which has seen him become a figure of hate on social media. Granted some ill-advised tweets regarding Giovanni Trapattoni have also landed him in hot water, his decision to state his feelings in last night's match programme is a level-headed and mature way of disclosing the rationale behind his decision.

Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan too deserves credit for the move, though it must be acknowledged it was in the club's best interests to do so given the furore the topic has caused.

"I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War One and Two I would wear one; I want to make that 100 per cent clear. You must understand this," he said.

The 25 year-old goes on to explain that if he were to wear a poppy-embroidered shirt, "it would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people".

McClean divides opinion like few other footballers – one need only have a quick scan on Twitter - though few others are judged on their religious beliefs.

Bloody Sunday, where 13 people died in the immediate aftermath and a fourteenth died a few months later, cast a long shadow on Northern Ireland's history and understandably left an indelible mark on McClean, describing it as "ingrained into us from birth".

The player will again come in for criticism for not appeasing the masses, but such symbolic gestures should not be forced on individuals. For McClean, the poppy has far greater significance than for thousands of other players who may be going through the motions of the ceremonial procedure.

You don't have to agree with his decision, but few could argue the motives and logic behind the controversial decision.

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