James McClean Was Right Not To Wear A Poppy

James McClean

Firstly let me state that I am proud to be British and I am also a supporter of the poppy and what it stands for in this country.

In the James McClean saga, I always felt that the Irish midfielder should like everyone else support the charity and also respect the fallen by sporting a poppy badge on the weekend that Remembrance Sunday lands on. He lives and works in Britain after all.

But alas I judged the situation and the player without hearing his side first. That can often be a cardinal sin for any football writer.

On the seventh of November, James McClean wrote an open letter to Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan and to the Latics  fans. In the letter he explained his decision.

The Republic of Ireland player clearly feels strongly about the subject. He’s also right, the British Royal Legion helps all current and ex service men, that will include the ones that served in Northern Ireland in recent times.

As he states, McClean is from a part of Northern Ireland that has been scarred by the sectarian violence during the twentieth century. That included the ‘Bloody Sunday‘ in which British soldiers shot and killed protesters in Bogside.

Obviously McClean was brought up hearing stories of tragic incidents like that one in his family home and in his local community. So it would obviously seem to him as a betrayal to wear a shirt with a poppy on it.

Now the main argument a lot of people throw at James McClean is that people fought and died for his freedom and he should respect that (I’m sure I’ve said it in the past). But surely by standing up for what he believes in and taking a stand, he’s actually using that freedom and we are being hypocritical in hounding him for making a decision in which he’s comfortable with.

Also lets not forget that many in the UK don’t agree with the red Poppies due to the Earl Haig association. Douglas Haig was one of the Legions co-founders. He was also a commander during the first world war, who oversaw battles such as the battle of the Somme. People have often criticised Haig’s tactics during these brutal battles and blame him for the heavy casualties lost during the years of 1914 – 1918. These same people decide to wear white poppies instead of the traditional red ones. Like James McClean, they are protesting and are supporters of peace. The difference is, they are usually British.

Now I have once again put my hand in my pocket and supported the British Legion this year and I will also do it in future years. I support our armed forces and believe they do a great job and need that support.

But if we are truly going to remember our war dead in a way that means something, then we need to have tolerance. We cannot dictate our beliefs onto others. James McClean has his own personal reasons for not wearing a poppy on his shirt. He explained them in a well written letter. As a society we should respect that decision and move on.

I apologise to James for doubting his motives in the past, I had no right to judge.


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