DUP slams abuse of ‘no poppy’ player

Former Derry City player and current Irish International James McClean. Photo: �INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Former Derry City player and current Irish International James McClean. Photo: �INPHO/Ryan Byrne

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has condemned those who sent abusive packages to former Derry City player James McClean.

The 29-year-old Stoke City and Republic of Ireland player was the subject of abuse from fans during last weekend’s home draw with Middlesbrough, related to his choice not to wear a poppy while playing.

“He’s been sent stuff which I’ve seen,” said club manager Gary Rowett of the packages. “You can understand in a way why he reacts. He’s only human.”

He has spoken about receiving death threats in the past over the issue.

Earlier this week, McClean was warned by the Football Association for using an offensive word on social media in which he called some Stoke fans “cavemen”.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has publicly criticised McClean’s politics before, but unequivocally condemned the latest abuse.

“This must be condemned,” he said. “Regardless of anyone’s political views, they should not be subjected to physical threats.

“As a democratic nation, people have the freedom to choose whether to mark the sacrifice of previous generations on the battlefield by wearing a poppy. Some choose not to honour the dead of the first and second wars.

“Even in circumstances whereby a footballer whose livelihood is earned in the UK, who disrespects that national anthem, and who makes offensive political statements, they must not be subjected to physical attacks such as these.”

Earlier this week Mr Campbell criticised McClean for quoting IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands on social media.

Mr Campbell said: “He turned his back on the National Anthem when playing in the USA. He posed with various Sinn Fein political figures and has made numerous political statements, and now has aligned himself with a convicted terrorist, Bobby Sands.”