Gary Lineker says he will not be “bullied” for censoring himself on Twitter after poking fun at the “ridiculous” furor sparked by a pun about Chloe Kelly’s goal celebration that secured England’s European title.
Lineker vowed to continue posting “funny” comments on the social media site, despite the backlash after what feminist activists branded as “misogynist” about Kelly removing her shirt and revealing her sports bra after she had scored the winner at Sunday’s Euro 2022 final.
Match-of-the-day host Lineker, who was also accused of “casual sexism,” chose to delete the tweet with the line “Kelly is England’s hero, no bra” after responding with hundreds of bawdy Jokes had sparked anger from those offended.
But speaking about the storm more than 24 hours later, he told Telegraph Sport: “It was ridiculous. But it was just a few people who I don’t think saw the football game. So they automatically thought I was making a sexist comment because women wear bras.”
He insisted he “only deleted” it because those who didn’t see the game “who took offense” hadn’t appreciated the competition, adding: “So I thought, ‘There will be other people like that, So I’ll take it down’. Because there is no harm in taking something down.”
He also said he passed the tweet to two friends, both of whom were feminists, before posting it, and that they responded by saying, “Nice joke. Totally fine.”
Lineker is known for puns both as a presenter of the BBC’s football coverage and on Twitter and has no intention of being bullied into self-censorship.
“I’m not easily bullied,” he said. “I think about my tweets all the time. That’s why I thought of them. Because I found it pretty funny. It was just a play on words, like I do all the time, in most of my tweets when watching football games.
“Because actually, when you tweet about football, if you just say ‘So and so scored’, it’s pretty boring. So I’m trying to come up with something funny. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not. Some might like it. Some people won’t understand it at all. Some find it boring.
“But I’m just trying to be different about what I do on TV. I try to do similar things and I always have. And I just think a few people just got it wrong. And I understand that.”
He added, “When I have 8.5 million followers, every tweet I make someone is going to have a pop.”
Lineker spoke at the release of a report commissioned by Ofcom into Twitter abuse by Premier League footballers.
The report, based on the findings of a study by the Alan Turing Institute, found that seven out of 10 top players suffered such abuse in the first half of last season, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire being the worst victims.
Lineker said: “Sometimes you look at a hundred tweets – when I’m really bored – and 99 of them are going to be really positive and you’re going to enjoy it and then someone is going to start yelling at you. And it’s probably the one you remember, or it might sink in.
“I don’t have any mental problems. But I imagine a young footballer who has some sort of mental health issue, he gets depressed easily, he worries about things, they probably really need to think about their approach to social media because unfortunately it can be a cesspool.
“This tiny minority – and it is a minority, a small minority – is ruining it for the vast majority.”
Lineker said he deliberately avoided looking at most mentions of him on Twitter and never reported offensive messages to the company or the police.
He added, “I had ‘I want to kill you’ and stuff like that. But I don’t take that literally as a death threat. Maybe I should and maybe I should report it and maybe I should think about it in the future. But overall I just keep going.”