Stoke City have confirmed that the club's Republic of Ireland international James McClean will not be wearing a poppy on his matchday shirt in the forthcoming games against Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest but say they respect the player's right "to follow his own convictions".
McClean has asked the club’s supporters to show the same respect.
The 29-year-old’s determination not to simply go with the flow on the issue has attracted criticism pretty much every year that he has been in England with his attempt to set out his position in an articulate and well-reasoned open letter to Dave Whelan, the chairman of Wigan Athletic, four years ago doing little to generate any real understanding of the Derryman’s position.
McClean has not been shy about taking his critics on on social media but the growing trend amongst English clubs to have a poppy on their shirts for games around Remembrance Sunday, which can then be sold to raise funds for related charities, has not helped him with his decision to opt out looking all the more conspicuous.
The player has been steadfast in his refusal to give in to the pressure, though, and his stand has won praise from the portion of the English population that has been increasingly critical of what has been described as “poppy facism” - the refusal to respect the right of people not to wear a poppy if that is their preference.
In an official statement, McClean’s current employers, Stoke City, confirmed their support for the British Legion and other causes that benefit from the sale of poppy emblems and related products, but insist that they fully accept the Irishman’s entitlement to opt out.
“As a Club we will be supporting the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal by wearing the Poppy on our home shirt in the fixture against Middlesbrough on November 3rd and on our away shirt in the fixture against Nottingham Forest on November 10th,” the statement reads. “The Club is proud of its close connections with the Armed Forces and have also invited members of the Armed Forces to join our remembrance at the Middlesbrough fixture.
“However, we recognise that the Poppy means different things to different individuals and communities and (like the Royal British Legion) do not believe that anybody should be forced or even pressured to wear the Poppy against their free will,” it continues. “James has informed us that he will not be wearing a Remembrance Day Poppy in our next two games. We respect his decision and his right to follow his own convictions.”
In the same statement, McClean issued a renewed appeal for respect of his position. “I know many people won’t agree with my decision or even attempt to gain an understanding of why I don’t wear a poppy. I accept that but I would ask people to be respectful of the choice I have made, just as I’m respectful of people who do choose to wear a poppy.”