Michael Stewart’s BBC ban is at an end. He will return to our screens and our radios within the week after an enforced absence where the broadcaster embarrassed itself with a series of ill-judged temp replacements who demonstrated their hypocrisy in ever suspending him in the first place.
Their announcement said that, “We expect our pundits to be forthright, but fair. Michael agrees with this. On that basis Michael is now available for selection for Sportscene and Sportsound.”
The thing is, Stewart lived up to those standards.
It is hard to believe that he would ever have had the slightest hesitation in supporting those sentiments.
It was clear, last week, that the BBC was attempting to hold him to a far different standard; indeed, it was difficult to escape the impression that they were trying to limit what he was allowed to talk about, and twisting his arm to get him to toe the line.
There is not the merest hint in that statement that he has accepted either limits nor been forced to backtrack.
Both sides can claim the victory here, but we know who won this.
Stewart will not hold back from speaking his mind.
He will continue to offer balance and fairness, as he has throughout.
And he will continue to call out liars and charlatans as he sees fit.
This site will not always agree with him. Indeed, we’ve vehemently disagreed with is views on any number of occasions in the past. But he raises the level of debate on the BBC, he challenges people, he jumps in to big issues, and he knows the smell of bullshit when its wafting up his nostrils and won’t pretend it’s something else.
Stewart has more than earned the respect of Scottish football’s supporters, which is why the backlash against his suspension was so great.
It helps, of course, that he told the truth and called out those who have made a career out of division and ratcheting up the levels of hate … in our view that was a public service of the sort the national broadcaster exists for.
Michael Stewart has taken a lot of stick since this situation exploded.
He has been dignified throughout, even as his comments were fully vindicated by developments such as the Sky Sports interview with Morelos. Those who tried to intimidate him into silence, including those within the organisation he returns to work for, have failed.
Faced with the choice between firing him and accepting the legal consequences of doing so without cause or reinstating him and calling it a win they’ve done the latter … it won’t matter to him or to those of us who have clamoured for his reinstatement.
It will be excellent to have him back on the air.