Ian Wright has hit out at the ‘racially driven’ abuse of black and female pundits following Sky Sports’ decision to sack Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas from their positions on Soccer Saturday.
It was revealed on Wednesday that the trio, who have been longstanding pundits on the hugely popular programme hosted by Jeff Stelling, have been axed ahead of the coming season.
Following the announcement the likes of Micah Richards, Alex Scott and Clinton Morrison are just some of the names that have been suggested could replace them.
The news received a mixed reaction on social media, prompting former Arsenal striker Wright to pull over his car and post a heartfelt video on social media urging users to stop the racist comments.
The Arsenal legend said: ‘The racism is going through the roof today. Can somebody just answer me this: What does Micah Richards, Alex Scott, Sol Campbell, Clinton Morrison, or any other black pundit have to do with Sky’s decision to get rid of these guys?
‘All because three middle-aged white guys have got the sack.
‘I kiss my teeth, say raasclaat and all that sort of stuff. What have they done? What have these guys done?
‘Because a black person or a woman might get the opportunity to do this job. They might get a chance to do this show. Why are people upset?’.
Scott was trending on Twitter on tonight as many praised her as one of the most talented football pundits in the country. But she was also hit with a slew of sexist tweets.
Richards also received the backing of a lot of football fans after his energetic and erudite views since hanging up his boots and becoming a pundit. He was also targeted with abuse on Twitter.
The former Manchester City star tweeted on Wednesday evening, he said: I saw I was trending today in relation to a brilliant & institutional Sky Sports TV show that I’ve never even been on.
‘The underlying insinuation of tweets immediately linking mine & Alex Scott’s names makes for some uncomfortable truths. Peace and love
Scott, who played for Arsenal Women, has become a prominent pundit in recent years, featuring on Sky Sports and the BBC.
Wright described Scott as ‘one of the best prepared pundits out there’.
Wright also praised former Manchester City and Aston Villa defender Richards, who recently became a pundit following the conclusion of his playing career.
He said: ‘Alex Scott, for me, is easily one of the best prepared pundits out there. Easily. Micah Richards, the most exciting pundit to hit the scene in years. Keep their names out of your stinking unbrushed teeth mouths.
‘These guys, Matt Le Tissier, Charlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson, they’ve had an unbelievable run. It’s been a great show. This happens to everybody in the industry. This is Sky’s decision to evolve the show, and you know what, I wish them all the very best.
‘Yes, you can be disappointed that it’s come to an end for those guys. But they’ve done brilliantly.
‘But why does it have to be racially driven? What’s it got to do with Black Lives Matter, or the fact that black people may get an opportunity to get those jobs? What?’.
Scott responded to Wright’s tweet with four heart emojis.
After the decision to dismiss Le Tissier, Thompson and Nicholas, Stelling tweeted: ‘One of my saddest days ever at Sky Sports with the departure of three of my best mates. They have been part of a team that for me was the best.’
All three men were reportedly told on Tuesday during a meeting with broadcasting chiefs that their time on the iconic show had come to an end.
Former Southampton superstar and England ace Le Tissier, 51, was a hugely popular member of host Stelling’s Saturday team, though has courted controversy several times in the past.
Earlier this season Le Tissier caused a stir when responding to comments regarding his and Sky’s public support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign, saying he would be evaluating his own personal stance.
Le Tissier says he was asked by bosses to wear the Black Lives Matter badge, but stressed he ‘could not support’ the cause’s anti police and capitalist aims.
The 51-year-old hit out at the movement’s ‘far-left ideology’ – as black footballer Karl Henry also branded the group ‘divisive’.
Earlier this month Le Tissier announced he would be temporarily quitting the social media platform Twitter, saying he had been repeatedly targeted by cyber bullies who were attempting to force him out of his job.
The Southampton legend had been outspoken on social media about various subjects including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In the wake of personal criticism, the retired playmaker released a lengthy statement detailing his position, before later going on to deny that he identified as an ‘anti-vaxxer.’
Le Tissier had wrote: ‘Yes I’ve made mistakes and errors of judgment in the past, which I regret, but I believe the good I’ve done far outweighs the mistakes.
‘I have huge sympathy for anyone who loses someone close to them by whatever health reason, I recently lost my grandad so I know how it feels.
‘You trolls and bots out there who try to belittle me with your snide remarks trying to make out I’m some uncaring individual who has no empathy, you couldn’t be further from the truth and I feel incredible sorry for you that there is so little joy in your life that you resort to this.
‘I truly hope you find happiness soon.’
Le Tissier has since returned to Twitter following the news breaking of his departure, writing: ‘Enjoyed my time at sky sports, time to look forward to life’s next challenge, thank you for the support down the years and special thanks to the backroom team… good luck all have a lovely day.’
Like Le Tissier, former Liverpool captain Thompson had also been a mainstay on Sky broadcasting, and seen as a charismatic figure on the show.
Speaking on Twitter following his dismissal, he said’: ‘I’ve had a great 22 years with @SkySports.
‘Enjoyed every minute with some amazing people on the show and behind the scenes which made it the iconic show it is today. Good luck to Sky, Jeff, Merse and the new gang on @SoccerSaturday.
Thompson, Le Tissier and Nicholas regularly traded jibes with each other, while letting out instantly recognisable squeals of delight or anguish at goals or near misses.
It is now expected Sky Sports will bring in new faces for the coming campaign, in order to freshen up the popular football show and keep Soccer Saturday current.