James McClean, the outspoken Irishman who refuses to wear a poppy on his Premier League shirt for West Bromwich Albion, explained his decision this way.
"If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I would wear it without a problem.
"I'd wear it every day of the year if that was the thing, but it doesn't – it stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in.
"Because of the history of where I come from in Derry, I cannot wear something that represents that."
As we know fourteen people were killed by the British Army in Derry on January 30, 1972, dubbed Bloody Sunday. The Saville Inquiry cleared all those who were killed of any wrongdoing.
McClean went on to state: "I have no issue with people that do wear the poppy – I absolutely respect their right to do that.
"But I would hope that people respect my right to have a different opinion on it too."
McClean was immediately targeted with a flood of bile and hatred not unlike what Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49er quarterback, is receiving now for addressing racism by refusing to stand for the anthem.
McClean received numerous death threats and was catcalled even by home fans who chanted "F*** the IRA" – after his letter explaining his position.
McClean then upped the ante by refusing to stand with his teammates during “God Save the Queen.”
McClean has refused to wear the poppy on his shirt at three different premier league clubs now. This November he will do so again.
His point is that the poppy not only honors those who fought in legitimate conflicts like the two World Wars, but also British imperialist wars in places like Northern Ireland and Kenya.
McLean has family connections to some of those who died, It’s personal. He is not going to wear a symbol of an army that cold-bloodedly murdered many in his community. It would be like pinning a KKK sticker on an African-American
There is now a grudging respect for him and what he has stood up for – even in many parts of the British media.
Kaepernick should be respected too, especially by those who are always so loud claiming their inalienable Second Amendment rights.
Kaepernick exercised his First Amendment rights as an American, chief among it the right to dissent.
In Irish history we love dissenters. Indeed, the United Irishman proudly claimed “Catholics, Protestants And Dissenters” as their followers.
Black athletes are mainly supposed to be docile, take their paycheck and, if they are very good, get an ad deal.
Nothing wrong with that, but Kaepernick showed that athletes, like everyone else, live in the real world, where race and racism is a very real truth.
He shouted stop. America is great enough to listen to him and take on board his views even if they don’t agree with them. He should not be demonized any more than James McClean should. These are acts of conscience that deserve our respect, not our disdain.
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