MATCH of the Day hosts staged a mutiny tonight after the BBC yanked Gary Lineker off air over the Nazi tweet row — plunging the flagship show into chaos.
Ian Wright and Alan Shearer walked out in “solidarity” with Lineker, 62, who had compared the Government’s language around its small boats crackdown to that of 1930s Germany.
The BBC was left scrambling to find a panel for the show, as other stars ruled themselves out.
Gary wept when told how his mates had publicly backed him.
On a day of chaos, the corporation claimed its £1.3million-a-year star had agreed to step back from presenting tonight’s flagship highlights show.
But friends said Lineker had been blindsided by the statement and was being benched against his will.
It left Match of the Day 2 presenter Mark Chapman as favourite to step in.
The Beeb could not say when ex-England ace Lineker will return.
Tonight it appeared there was no way back for the star at the BBC.
He was ordered to issue a “humiliating apology” by execs or face being “rested” from the show.
A source said: “This has been a tumultuous 24 hours. Gary is in shock and had no idea this was coming. He wanted to go on air, make no bones about it, this was not his decision.
“Privately, everyone at the Beeb is in meltdown too. They genuinely don’t know how they will get a show out because no one wants to touch it.
“Everyone in the industry is appalled at how Gary has been hung out to dry, and the general BBC inconsistency.
“Gary wept when he found out his mates had all publicly backed him.
“The support has been overwhelming which, essentially, is a massive pie in the face for the BBC.
“Gary wasn’t willing to pretend to support something he vehemently doesn’t agree with.
“He doesn’t need the cash and, frankly, it seems hard to imagine a way back for either party from here.”
The ex-striker had compared language around the Government’s small boats crackdown to that used by Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
The BBC initially said Lineker would be spoken to, then appeared to take no action against him.
That triggered a backlash from Tory MPs furious about a perceived breach of BBC impartiality rules.
Yesterday afternoon, the BBC issued its botched statement stating Lineker had stepped back from presenting MoTD.
Pal Wright then tweeted that he will step away, saying: “Everybody knows what Match of the Day means to me, but I’ve told the BBC I won’t be doing it tomorrow. Solidarity.”
Shearer soon followed, saying: “I have informed the BBC I wont be appearing on MoTD.”
And Football Focus host Alex Scott appeared to rule herself out, posting a meme which read “Nah, not me”.
Piers Morgan said of the Beeb last night: “This is a ridiculous decision. If the BBC really believes its presenters shouldn’t have political opinions then I look forward to them suspending David Attenborough and Alan Sugar and everyone else who has presented BBC shows but makes public their opinions.”
Broadcasters Jeff Stelling and Laura Woods also backed Lineker.
Earlier the BBC said in its statement: “We have said we consider his recent social media activity to be a breach of our guidelines. The BBC has decided that he will step back from presenting MoTD until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media.
“We have never said that Gary should be an opinion-free zone, or that he can’t have a view on issues that matter to him, but we have said that he should keep well away from taking sides on political issues or political controversies.”
A TV insider added: “This is typical of the BBC being unable to handle a crisis which involves itself — they almost implode in confusion over what to do. They haven’t disciplined him, and have been briefing the media saying he won’t step down, but have now decided to take him off air to review their own policies. It’s all a bit bewildering.
“No wonder nobody knows what they can and can’t say.”
Lineker appeared to have ridden out the row until yesterday, and had tweeted: “Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days. Happy this ridiculously out of proportion story seems to be abating and very much looking forward to presenting Match of the Day on Saturday.”
PM Rishi Sunak said he hoped critics such as Lineker would eventually see why they were wrong about his immigration plan.
Ex-Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said: “Gary is of course entitled to hold his views.
“The problem is he is the highest-paid person working for the BBC and is closely associated with the BBC. I’m afraid that those things are not compatible.”