French sports stars call on public to vote against the far right in legislative elections

Almost 200 public figures signed a manifesto in ‘L’Équipe.’ The vice president of Marine Le Pen’s party responded to the the captain of Les Bleus: ‘I like Mbappé as a player, but I don’t expect him to give me lessons in politics’

Yannick Noah (extenista), Marie-José Perec (exatleta), François Gabart (regatista) y Marion Bartoli (extenista)
From left: Yannick Noah, Marie-José Perec, François Gabart and Marion Bartoli.getty
Sara González

Nearly 200 French athletes and former athletes have called for a vote against the National Rally (RN), the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen, in the upcoming snap legislative elections called by President Emmanuel Macron after the setback suffered in the European ballot a week ago. “The extreme right is in deep opposition to the construction of a democratic, tolerant and dignified society: history proves it,” they stated in a manifesto published by the sports daily L’Équipe on Sunday. Other well-known figures, such as footballers Kylian Mbappé, Ousmane Dembélé and Marcus Thuram, have already raised their voices against the advance of the far right and are calling for people to vote.

“We are aware of the growing difficulties many people face to make ends meet, the anger at inequality, the lack of commitment, and the fear of the future,” begins the manifesto, signed by 184 athletes from different disciplines — a number that is growing because new figures are signing up to the cause. “But as professional athletes, coaches, and decision-makers, we cannot resign ourselves to the extreme right coming to power in our country,” it continues. The text was published two weeks before the legislative elections in France, which will be held on June 30 and July 7.

Among the signatories are the tennis players Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Yannick Noah and Marion Bartoli, the former athlete Marie-José Perec, and the sailor François Gabart. The complete list of signatories has been published by L’Équipe. In the manifesto, the athletes stress that “respect” is one of the “cornerstones of sport” and accuse the extreme right of “trampling on it every day.” They also argue that sport teaches everyone to accept differences, be they skin color, religion, accents, sexual orientation, gender, or disabilities. “The extreme right,” on the other hand, “exploits these differences and manipulates our fears to divide us,” they warn.

They are not the first sportspeople to speak out against the extreme right in France, which according to the latest polls — which should be taken in the context of a changing political situation — could lead in the first round to RN gaining 29.5% of the vote, ahead of the coalition of left-wing parties and Macron’s centrists. If RN wins a majority in the National Assembly, the French president will have to appoint a prime minister from the ranks of Le Pen’s party.

Kylian Mbappé during a press conference at Düsseldorf Arena on June 16, 2024.
Kylian Mbappé during a press conference at Düsseldorf Arena on June 16, 2024. Frederic Scheidemann (UEFA/ Getty Images)

Les Bleus stars speak out

In recent days, prominent French national team stars such as Mbappé, Dembélé, Benjamin Pavard and Olivier Giroud have urged citizens to go out and vote. Marcus Thuram, on Saturday, went even further. “I understand that some players can come here and just say people should vote, but I don’t think that’s enough, you have to also explain how we got here and the seriousness of the situation,” said the Inter Milan player and son of World Cup-winning defender Lilian, who has 1.7 million followers on Instagram. Mbappé, for his part, called for a vote “against extreme views and ideas that divide people,” but without explicitly citing any leader or party. “We are a generation that can make a difference. We see the extremes are knocking on the door of power and we have the opportunity to shape our country’s future.”

The vice-president of the RN, Sébastien Chenu, reacted Monday to Mbappé's statements, but also to those of the manifesto published by L’Équipe. “I do not expect people who I consider quite far removed from reality [...] to give lessons to the French,” he said on France Inter. “I like Mbappé as a player, but I don’t expect him to give me lessons in politics,” he added. “When you have the good fortune, the honor, to wear the jersey of the French national team, you have to show a little restraint.”

In a statement released Saturday, the France Football Federation backed the call for a vote, but insisted on “its neutrality as an institution” and that of the “national team for which it is responsible.” It also warned against any “political use” of the national team.

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