James McClean has written to Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan to inform of him of his reasons for not wearing the poppy on his jersey along with his teammates.
The letter is aimed at defusing the trouble of recent years that have surrounded the Derry winger at this time of year.
This weekend, as with every year, clubs around the UK will wear the remembrance poppy on their shirts. McClean, from the Creggan area of Derry, has repeatedly refused to wear the symbol, which honours those soldiers who have died in war.
McClean explains that he is not seeking to cause offence, and would gladly honour those soldiers who died in World War I and World War II, but he cannot wear the poppy as it would be “a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles- and Bloody Sunday especially.”
“I am not a war monger, or anti-British, or a terrorist or any of the accusations levelled at me in the past ... I just cannot do something that I believe is wrong,” McClean said.
Wigan Atheltic released the letter a few minutes before kick-off in tonight’s Championship game against Bolton Wanderers.
The club said: “This is a personal decision by James, who explained his position in a letter to Latics Chairman Dave Whelan before the two met face to face to discuss the issue this week.
“Following the meeting, Mr Whelan accepted James’ decision and it is both their wish that the letter is published here in full, alongside this statement. There will be no further comment on this issue by the club.”
James McClean's letter to Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan
"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.
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.