Wigan Athletic midfielder James McClean has penned an emotional letter explaining his reasons for not wanting to wear a poppy on his shirt for his side's 3-1 defeat against Bolton last night.
Poppys will be displayed on the shirts of most clubs in English football this weekend as a mark of respect for Remembrance Sunday, which honours those who lost their lives fighting in both world wars. McClean has previously been the target of abuse for not wanting to wear the emblem on his shirt, and received death threats back in 2012.
The 25-year-old wrote a letter to Wigan chairman Dave Whelan explaining the reasons behind his decision, which was then published on the Latics' official website. The two men also met later on to discuss the issue.
McClean, from Northern Ireland, says he felt unable to wear the poppy symbol on his shirt because it is used in his home country to mourn those who lost their lives in the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre. 26 people were shot and 14 died after fighting between civil rights protesters and the British Army in Derry, where McClean was born.
The letter read: "Dear Mr Whelan, I wanted to write to you before talking about this face to face and explain my reasons for not wearing a poppy on my shirt for the game at Bolton.
"I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars - many I know were Irish-born. I have been told that your own Grandfather Paddy Whelan, from Tipperary, was one of those. I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the Poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II I would wear one.
"I want to make that 100% clear .You must understand this. But the Poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.
"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. Please understand, Mr Whelan, that when you come from Creggan like myself or the Bogside, Brandywell or the majority of places in Derry, every person still lives in the shadow of one of the darkest days in Ireland’s history – even if like me you were born nearly 20 years after the event. It is just a part of who we are, ingrained into us from birth.
"I am a peaceful guy, I believe everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs which I respect and ask for people to respect mine in return" - James McClean
"Mr Whelan, 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. It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people.
"I am not a war monger, or anti-British, or a terrorist or any of the accusations levelled at me in the past. I am a peaceful guy, I believe everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs which I respect and ask for people to respect mine in return. Since last year, I am a father and I want my daughter to grow up in a peaceful world, like any parent.
"I am very proud of where I come from and I just cannot do something that I believe is wrong. In life, if you’re a man you should stand up for what you believe in. I know you may not agree with my feelings but I hope very much that you understand my reasons. As the owner of the club I am proud to play for, I believe I owe both you and the club’s supporters this explanation."
McClean started on the bench during Wigan's defeat against Bolton last night, coming on in the final minutes as a replacement for Shaun Maloney. By that time however the game was already gone as the Trotters continued their revival under new boss Neil Lennon.
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