PFA Statement: James McClean

James McClean, Stoke City

The Professional Footballers' Association has offered its support and assistance to James McClean following the unacceptable abuse he has received previously and more recently following his decision not to wear a poppy on his kit during the Stoke City v Middlesbrough match last weekend.

The poppy symbol is an important recognition of the sacrifice so many made in the World Wars in the UK however it should always remain an individual’s choice whether or not to wear it. Protecting the right to freedom of speech was such an important part of the reason for the World Wars and every individual should have the right to freedom of speech within the law. We live in a multicultural society as reflected in those who play professional football in the UK and the PFA is proud to have such a diverse membership. James’ decision is based solely on his religious beliefs and his nationality, and we support his right to express himself as he feels appropriate.

There is no justification for the abuse he and his family have received for his beliefs and he should be supported in the same way as any other player who receives abuse based on his or her race. We call upon the other stakeholders in football to recognise this and support an individual’s right to express his personal and religious beliefs without fear of threats and abuse.