Meet The Man People Are Calling The Colin Kaepernick Of England

Jena Greene | Reporter

He’s been called the most hated man in soccer.

Stoke City midfielder James McClean has been refusing to wear a poppy on his uniform, which commemorates British soldiers who died in battle.

The poppy tradition became especially popular after WWII but has been used to honor fallen British soldiers who have died in conflict throughout Britain’s often complicated history. (RELATED: Colin Kaepernick’s Latest Venture May Be His Most Political One Yet)

 

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McClean, who is Irish by birth, argues he won’t wear the poppy because it means something different to his people, who were oppressed by the British empire in the early 20th century.

The poppy has been “used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945,” McClean argued in an open letter back in 2014, “and this is where the problem starts for me.”

He wrote:

For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different … For me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles — and Bloody Sunday especially — as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII.

But the decision not to don the poppy has obviously riled up an already riled up football fanbase.

Several abusive packages have been sent to McClean’s home and he’s received countless death threats. He’s also routinely berated by fans as he walks on and off the field:

But the Professional Footballers Association has spoken to McClean about it, and claim to understand his viewpoint.

“The poppy symbol is an important recognition of the sacrifice so many made in the World Wars in the U.K., however, it should always remain an individual’s choice whether or not to wear it,” the PFA said in a statement.

McClean addressed the haters on an Instagram statement Monday.

“Your abuse, your throwing things, your booing, do your worst … to the home fans that are actually educated and support me, thank yous,” he said.

Who knew? Mixing sports with politics is an issue outside of the United States, too!

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