James McClean doesn’t have an agent. He doesn’t have a public relations representative either.

While I know the above is false, it’s the only explanation for his decision on the day before we remember those who have fought in wars, both in the past and today.

I’d love to feign outrage over McClean’s refusal to wear a Sunderland shirt adorned with a poppy, but I’m struggling. On one hand the idea of paying lip service to things and customs I don’t believe in makes me ill. However, I’d also like to think I’m not an inconsiderate jerk.

It’s not that simple. McClean — who hails from Ireland — asked to wear his normal shirt. His manager, Martin O’Neill, chose not to wear a poppy during the game but put one on for his post match presser. McClean’s Republican views have garnered vitriol before. He swapped allegiances from Northern Ireland to Ireland, even though he had played for the former during his youth. He was prone to twitter outbursts before ultimately shutting his account down.

The history and general tension behind this issue is not one I will pretend to comprehend. That would be paying lip service to you, readers who know bullshit when they see it. With that in mind perhaps we should look at McClean’s actions today through the same lens.

Before we lambaste the 23-year-old it would be wise to take a step back and acknowledge that we really don’t know everything. While I wear a poppy myself I cannot pretend to know what James McClean has dealt with in his life. He made a stand. So be it.

Comments (25)

  1. Everybody has a right to their own opinions, and a right to wear or not wear a symbol.

    I, for one, have not worn a poppy since 2007 as a result of some bullshit on the part of veterans organizations regarding the Canadian war museum in Ottawa. -shrug-

    • I agree. Remembrance should be for all victims of war; unfortunately we have let a few define ‘our’ victims as the heroes and all others as invisible. War is horrible and nasty, I’m saddened to see the suffering/difficulties young people face in moments of war turned into heroic mystification for future conflicts.

      I’d be proud if we remembered soldiers not as heroes or powerful people that fought and died, but brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, friends and loved ones. Maybe we would be less callous with the lives of soldiers and civilians when we embroil ourselves in politics of war…

  2. How many people in Canada that were no born here do you see not wearing a poppy? Would people freak out a a co-worker for not wearing one?

    I was born in Ireland myself and it’s just not what people do there. I will add, I have no issues against people wearing poppies and respect it.

    A lot of it has to do with the fact that he’s been forced into a situation that other people would not be as his decision was made in public.

    It should also be noted that no matter what choice he made it would be an issue. Some people in Ireland who I would not agree with would be outraged if he had worn a poppy.

  3. The British army killed 14 innocent civilians in his home town. Why would he wear a poppy?

  4. he should have worn it out of respect to the many soldiers who have died from the British isles fighting for our and his freedom. he has made it a political issue when to the vast majority it isn’t.

    • The British were definitely NOT fighting for Irish freedom, Gary p. This is the problem with how we celebrate Remembrance Day. We foster slavish adherence to the status quo in exchange for a thoughtful examination of the conflict’s root causes and consequences.

      WWI was a colossal crime: we should punish, at least the symbolically, the perpetrators rather than just mourn the victims..

    • Bullshit Gary. Symbols are always already politicized. This one is no different.

    • Freedom? His parents and grandparents were denied a vote as they weren’t property owners in Derry in the 50s. Nice idea of freedom. It was apartheid. Something people don’t seem to respect.

  5. Shouldn’t criticize him at all. I have deep misgivings with how we celebrate Remembrance Day. I think we should be using this opportunity to shame those responsible for WWI (the military and aristocratic elites of the various combatant nations, the jingoistic national medias who encouraged young men to sign up in their millions and willfully misrepresented how horrific the conflict was) and talk about how we can avoid future conflicts rather than hear mealy-mouthed speeches about “sacrifice” and making the world safe for democracy. I don’t want hear a Prime Minister or member of the royal family talk about WWI; their predecessors have a lot of blood on their hands.

    McClean’s misgivings are even more valid than mine. The Irish don’t owe the British anything.

  6. One thing that pisses me off about the whole “you must wear a poppy!” crowd is the assumption that we’ve “forgotten”. I haven’t forgotten about war sacrifice and I never will. I also don’t need a red symbol to remind me of that. It’s like they look down upon you when you didn’t commit any misdeed in the first place.

  7. He made a stand that shows no respect for the thousands of Irishmen North & South who fought and those who gave their all in both world wars.

  8. Why would James wear a symbol that represents commemoration of British service men and women? He’s not British. The poppy also represents the paratroop regiment who killed innocent civilians in his hometown, not to mention the hundreds of years of oppression by Britain in Ireland. While I’m all for moving on, history cannot be deleted. Its a British Commonwealth thing, not an Irish thing. Well done James in the face of the poppy media furore.

    • So how many Irishmen were killed, wounded, survived and then hounded and maligned by their own countrymen for joining up and fighting against a nation (Germany) who wouldn’t have given a toss about Ireland. Do you honestly believe that they would have been gracious occupiers ? So McClean comes here takes his money with the crown on and insults every fan in the stadium who more than likely has had at least one relative killed in two world wars. One smart cookie.

      • OutandAbout, you talk about WW2 but fail to realise what you and Joseph Goebbels have in common. No doubt you will probably never see this response, as your comment was more likely than not a knee jerk reaction to something your sheep mentality has been taught to think is offensive, but in case you do, I’d like to point out the irony that you said “one smart cookie” at the end. So you think McClean can’t come into “your” country (as if it was even yours) and work without wearing a poppy? Let me get this straight. You think the Irish sided with fascists (Germany) yet you yourself are condoning fascism. You don’t want him to have a choice. Nevermind the fact that HE WAS HIRED, he didn’t apply for a job there. There’s a difference. So perhaps Sunderland AFC should be shut down for hiring people who don’t conform to your very narrow train of thought? While we’re at it, let’s just ignore what the British army did in Derry, what they did in Ireland. Cromwell, Thatcher, the Shankill Butchers, Bloody Sunday, Croke Park, Bobby Sands and all of that. One thing that people like you tend to forget is that the men and women who fought in and died in those wars were dying for our freedom, one of those being “freedom of speech” — which includes freedom of expression — and now you want to take that away from us.

        Sorry, but I didn’t go to war for a little git like you to run your mouth off about what people should and shouldn’t do.

        Signed,
        An Ex Soldier from Northern Ireland.

  9. The British government have acknowledged that their army murdered 14 totally innocent civilians in Derry City (and there are a lot more unacknowledged victims across Ireland)! How exactly could he be expected to support such an organisation??

  10. I can not speak on the behalf on James McClean but this is my view being a republican from Belfast so maybe it can relate. I have nothing but respect for the brave men and women that fought in World War 1 and 2 for the Allies, but wearing a poppy is to remember the British soldiers of all wars, why would an Irishman or woman wear a poppy to remember British soldiers who fought and killed many Irish men over the last 800 years? The actions at Bloody Sunday were a huge catalyst for the 30 years of bloodshed that came after it, shooting at innocent civilians at a peace rally.

    People who criticise McClean ask yourself this: If you worked in Argentina would you wear something that remembered their dead at the Falklands? If you worked in Ireland would you wear an Easter Lily to remember our dead in our struggle against the British? Would you expect Palestinian workers in Israel to do the same there? I thought Britain was a democratic country and that people had a choice to do what they want. This sounds facist, like the Nazis won the 2nd World War and that everyone in that jurisdiction has to wear a poppy. The criticism of McClean is ridiculous, I would be more concerned about all these people who actually don’t care wearing the poppy, I’m sure Nicole Scherzinger never stops thinking about the British soldiers who have died. If anything you should respect McClean for having the balls to stand up for what he believes in.

  11. I am Catholic living in Northern Ireland and have the utmost respect for Rememberance Day. I thought it was shameful that McClean was the ONLY player including Foreign Nationals that chose not to show his appreciation for those that died to allow young people like him to lead a life of luxury.

    To those that see themselves as Republicans, obviously including McClean, can they not recognise the hypocrisy in shunning all things British whilst living and working in England and accepting the British Pound. If he is so anti British and wants to play for the Republic of Ireland maybe he should sign for Shamrock Rovers and play for 500 euros a week!!!

  12. I’m from Derry, and I can honestly say that had James worn a poppy on his shirt, he may have deeply offended a lot of friends and Derry locals. Aside from the fact he has friends who’s family members were murdered by the British army on Bloody Sunday, James comes from a republican area that has been oppressed by the government and in particular the British army for years. He has certainly been directly affected by their intimidation growing up and unlike many if his friends growing up, he should be commended in not following in the path to paramilitaries and violence and congratulated for the endless hours he has put in to get to where he is today. A simple question can settle this, if your best mate’s uncle was murdered, would you parade around celebrating the men that did it? The fact is people don’t know what’s going on and that’s ok, ignorance is bliss and should be left that way. Not very many people are qualified to comment on this, but speaking as a 23 year old from Derry who played with and against mcclean from u-10 to u-17 I feel that I am. He deserves neither criticism nor credit, it was an obvious decision for him to make.

  13. Age old argument which we won’t solve here. Republicans murdered many Northern Irish and British people but it doesn’t lead to them all hating the Irish.

    He’s entitled to his views but sometime it takes a better person to leave their personal prejudice aside for ONE minute for the greater good. He should get himself an advisor as he has made mistakes before like publicly criticising Trappatoni. With a little luck as he gets old he’ll get wiser.

  14. Paul McLaughlin obviously not a soldier ….. Lol

    You should remember the Scandanavians raped, robbed and pillaged Ireland long before the English but it doesn’t stop them shopping in IKEA. Ha ha!!

    Get over your prejudice and try to move forward with the rest of us.

  15. Sorry Paul, that was meant for Ciaran

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