Why is James McClean so controversial and why does he receive so much sectarian abuse?

Why is James McClean so controversial and why does he receive so much sectarian abuse?

JAMES MCCLEAN is man who's never too far away from making the news.

A lot of time, his on-field exploits for Stoke City and the Ireland national team are the reason, but unfortunately, he has a tendency to make headlines for a number of rather unsavoury reasons.

The 31-year-old is frequently subjected to sectarian abuse, both online and from the stands.

He's previously spoken out about the inconsistency with which anti-Irish discrimination is treated compared with discrimination against, for example, African-Americans, particularly since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.

Earlier this week, McClean shared a screenshot of some of the sickening abuse he and his family received recently on his Instagram page, asking whether anti-Irish abuse was 'popular enough' for people to speak openly about it and condemn it.

But what exactly makes McClean so controversial, and why is he targeted more than almost any other Irish sports star?

Refusal to wear a remembrance poppy

The Premier League has a tradition in which poppies are sewn into all players' match-day shirts when playing games on or around Remembrance Day (11 November).

Ever since 2012 when he arrived in the English top flight, McClean has refused to wear a shirt with a poppy on it.

He states his objection derives from his affinity with his hometown of Derry and to the role of the British Army during The Troubles.

Ever since, English football fans have targeted him, abusing verbally from the stands, sending him threatening messages online, and even sending him death-threats through the post.

Stoke-ing the flames

While the abuse McClean has received over the years is undeniably horrendous and indefensible, the Irishman isn't exactly the kind of person who'll just let things de-escalate.

He's been known to bite back, sometimes justifiably, sometimes not - like when he joked about giving his kids a lesson on Irish history while wearing an IRA-style balaclava.

He was later asked to delete the controversial post, prompting him to ask why people can make offensive jokes at his expense but he can't make offensive jokes back.