Why do some people opt out of wearing the poppy?

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As we are approaching the 100th anniversary of World War 1, this week people up and down the country are remembering fallen soldiers by wearing a red poppy.

So why is the Remembrance Day Poppy so divisive?

John McCrae, who was a Canadian surgeon during the Great War, wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ after he saw that poppies grew defiantly on the battlefields.

For almost a century, people have been displaying poppies as a sign of respect for those who we lost at battle.

For some people, the poppy has a different meaning and many choose not to wear them.

Two years ago, FIFA started a row with the FA and many players about whether or not they should wear poppies, deeming it to be a political symbol.

The FA disagree, they said that the players would be wearing black armbands with poppies on to show respect for the fallen soldiers.

Prime Minister, Theresa May called FIFA’s stance ‘utterly outrageous”.

FIFA backed down in 2017 by taking the poppy off its list of banned political or religious messages.

There are other people in football who opt out of wearing the poppy as it symbolises other wars or conflicts for them.

Nemanja Matic, Manchester United Midfielder, chooses not to wear a poppy as it reminds him of when his home in Serbia was bombed when he was a young boy.

Matic released a statement on Instagram about his decision, he said: “I recognise fully why people wear poppies, I totally respect everyone’s right to do so and I have total sympathy for anyone who has lost loved ones due to conflict.

“However, for me it is only a reminder of an attack that I felt personally as a young, frightened 12-year-old boy living in Vrelo, as my country was devastated by the bombing of Serbia in 1999. Whilst I have done previously, on reflection I now don’t feel it is right for me to wear the poppy on my shirt.

“I do not want to undermine the poppy as a symbol of pride within Britain or offend anyone, however, we are all a product of our own upbringing and this is a personal choice for the reasons outlined.

“I hope that everyone understands my reasons now that I have explained them and I can concentrate on helping the team in the games that lie ahead.”

Image courtesy of Jack Cochrane

Stoke City winger James McClean, has also expressed that he does not wear the poppy because it reminds him of other conflicts such as Bloody Sunday (1972) in Derry, Northern Ireland.

On the 30th of October this year, Stoke City released a statement about McClean’s decision not to wear the poppy, they said: “Stoke City can confirm that James McClean will not wear a Remembrance Day Poppy on his match shirt for forthcoming games against Middlesbrough and Nottingham.

“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.

“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.”

The decision not to wear a poppy at work can also be seen outside of the football pitch.

ITV News presenter Charlene White, opts not to wear the poppy on screen because of impartiality rules.

White described why she chooses not to wear a poppy on screen in an article she wrote for ITV News, she said: “It is a subject that provokes a lot of debate and anger- but it is one that I feel strongly about.

“I support and am a patron of a number of charities, and due to impartiality rules, I am not allowed to visually support them all whilst presenting news programmes.”

White added: “So I feel uncomfortable supporting just one charity above all others, namely The Royal British Legion, but I fully support my colleagues who do choose to wear the poppy on screen.

“In my private life, it’s very different. I wear a poppy on Armistice Day- in fact I wear one that my friend Jen’s mum knitted for me a few years ago.”

While the poppy can be divisive, the important thing is that everyone comes together to remember the past.

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