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Why doesn't James McClean wear a poppy on Remembrance weekend?

The West Brom man has chosen not to wear a poppy each and every year he has played in England. Here we explain why

Nick Stromberg
Sunday 05 November 2017 18:19 GMT
The West Brom midfielder has refused to wear the poppy every year playing football in England.
The West Brom midfielder has refused to wear the poppy every year playing football in England. (Getty Images / Victor Fraile / Stringer)

West Brom player James McClean has refused to wear the traditional Remembrance Day poppy on his shirt each and every year since first moving to England to join Sunderland in 2011.

He will again choose not to wear a shirt emblazoned with the poppy when his current side West Bromwich Albion take on Manchester City this weekend.

But why does McClean object to wearing a poppy on his shirt?

The history of the poppy

In the aftermath of the First World War, the poppy emerged as a potent symbol of commemoration, redolent of the swathes of red poppies that filled the battlefields of Northern Europe where so many gave their lives between 1914 and 1918.

And since 2012, each and every Premier League club has worn poppies sewn into specially made shirts during the month of November.

The special shirts are usually then auctioned as part of the annual Poppy Appeal organised by The Royal British Legion.

Clubs wear poppies stitched into their shirts (PA)

McClean’s objection

McClean was born and brought up in city of Derry, in Northern Ireland. He grew up on Creggan estate, where six of the people killed on Bloody Sunday in 1972 came from.

Bloody Sunday was one of the most significant events of The Troubles conflict in the country, when British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians during a peaceful protest march.

McClean objects to wearing the poppy because the symbol commemorates military personnel who have died in war – and not just soldiers who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars.

What has he said on the topic?

In 2015, McClean explained his stance in the West Brom matchday programme.

“People say I am being disrespectful but don’t ask why I choose not to wear it,” McClean wrote.

“If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I’d wear it without a problem.

“I would 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 where I come from in Derry, I cannot wear something that represents that.”

Minutes of silence will be observed across the country in this weekend's fixtures (Getty 2017)

What has been the reaction to his stance?

Mixed. McClean has previously been booed by supporters of opposition clubs as well as fans of his own team. He has also received sectarian abuse and loyalist threats.

However he has received support from various players and managers, including Tony Pulis, who said he respects McClean’s decision but added he did not believe in it himself, according to the Telegraph.

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