James McClean wore a black armband before Wigan’s Championship clash with Huddersfield – but decided to stand away from his team-mates during the commemorative minute of silence for the Queen.
There was speculation as to whether the Republic of Ireland international would wear the black armband as he has previously refused to take part in gestures honouring elements of the British empire such as wearing a poppy.
However, the 33-year-old winger stood separately from his team-mates as they joined arms during the minute’s silence. McClean stood alone. He later shared images on his Instagram account of an Irish boxer branding him a ‘legend’ for his stance.
McClean has previously refused to wear a poppy and, in 2020, appeared to imitate a member of the IRA – ‘teaching’ his two young children during lockdown.
The Republic of Ireland star was born in Derry and raised on the Creggan estate where six of the people killed on Bloody Sunday in 1972 came from. He describes himself as a ‘proud Fenian’.
Wigan Athletic player James McClean stands alone during a minute’s silence for the Queen
He decided to stand away from his team-mates during commemorative minute of silence
McClean shared a post calling him a ‘legend’ for separating himself from the silence
Images after Tuesday night’s game, where McClean was given a huge reception by the Wigan fans following a 2-1 away win, appear to show the winger no longer wearing the armband.
The UK Government said there was no obligation to cancel or postpone events and sporting fixtures, or close entertainment venues during the National Mourning period following the death of the Queen.
Instead, they said that the decision was left at the discretion of individual organisations and hinted that they should ‘hold a period of silence and/or play the National Anthem at the start of events or sporting fixtures’ if they decide to go ahead.
Therefore, Wigan and Huddersfield players wore black armbands during their Championship clash and took part in a minutes silence before the fixture took place on Tuesday evening.
McClean was pictured without the armband after the game on Tuesday evening
The use of black armbands and the minute of silence was out of respect for the Queen
McClean shared an Instagram post on Monday afternoon to discuss the ongoing speculation.
He said: ‘Unless you are a nationalist that was born and raised in Derry or anywhere else in the north of Ireland then don’t assume or speak on our behalf unless you can relate ie. Miguel Delaney.’
On Wednesday morning, he re-posted a message from Irish professional boxer Declan Geraghty calling him a ‘legend’ for separating himself from the gesture towards the Queen.
McClean has previously refused to wear poppy-embroidered shirts.
The poppy, which is sold by the British Legion to raise money for those currently serving in the armed forces and their families, is used a symbol to remember those who died in that conflict and others subsequently.
But McClean refused to wear them on his shirt due to the fact they are used to remember not just the First and Second World War but also other conflict Britain has been involved in.
Buckingham Palace announced the news that the Queen had died peacefully on Thursday
The UK Government said there was no obligation to cancel or postpone sporting fixtures but hinted that athletes should wear black armbands and complete a minute of silence
He argues that as someone brought up in Derry, a city in Northern Ireland which saw serious conflict over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland during the late 20th century, he cannot wear it.
If the poppy only commemorated those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars, however, he claims he would happily wear it with pride.
He previously took to social media to say: ‘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.’
He also wrote a letter addressed to Wigan chairman Dave Whelan saying: ‘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.
McClean previously refused to wear a poppy-embroidered shirt while playing for Stoke
‘I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War One and Two I would wear one; I want to make that 100 per cent 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.
McClean posted his image of himself wearing a black balaclava in front of his children in 2020
The rest of Stoke’s squad wore poppies to commemorate those who have fallen in conflict
‘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.’