BBC suspends soccer presenter over political tweet

Britain's public broadcaster, the BBC, has suspended the host of a popular soccer program for his political comments on social media.

Critics of Gary Lineker's suspension say the BBC has yielded to pressure from the government and the ruling Conservative Party. Others say the broadcaster has deprived the freelancer of his right to free speech.

Lineker, a former captain of England's soccer team, criticized a bill that was introduced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's government on Tuesday last week. The bill would bar asylum claims by migrants who arrive by boat.

Lineker tweeted, "This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people." He compared the policy to the language used by Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

The BBC said on Friday that it had decided to suspend Lineker, who has presented "Match of the Day" for 25 years. It said he had breached its social media guidelines and its impartiality standards.

The "Match of the Day" programs at the weekend were much shorter than usual and had no commentary. Other presenters refused to work in a show of support for Lineker and soccer players did not give interviews.

The director-general of the BBC, Tim Davie, apologized for the disruption, saying he wants to find a solution by reviewing the impartiality rules for freelance staff.

Lineker was the leading scorer at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. He also played for Japanese team Nagoya Grampus in the 1993 and 1994 seasons.