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Sport stars in France urge voters to stop Marine Le Pen winning

In an open letter Tony Parker, Yannick Noah and almost 50 other athletes say the far-right presidential candidate ‘embodies the opposite of inclusive sporting values’

A split image with Marine Le Pen on one side and photos of sports stars Tony Parker, Antoine Dupont and Laure Manaudou on the other

French sports stars including Tony Parker, Antoine Dupont and Laure Manaudou have added their names to an open letter against Marine Le Pen Pic: Magicinfoto / Frederic Legrand - COMEO / takaimages / Paolo Bona / Shutterstock

More than 50 sports stars in France have written an open letter against presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, saying that “defending sporting values means refusing the arrival of extreme right-wing power”.

Stars including Tony Parker, Marie-José Pérec, Antoine Dupont, and Laure Manaudou were among the 52 figures to sign the letter, which was published by FranceInfo with Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France, on April 12.

Other famous stars include tennis players Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Yannick Noah (see full list at the bottom of this article).

Describing themselves as "from all walks of life and all disciplines" they said that they believe that "although we are well aware of the difficulties facing many people in France, voting for a party that would endanger republican values would be the worst of solutions". 

They called for a "barrage against the extreme right", and encouraged people to vote for Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the 2022 presidential election.

Read more: Expressions you may hear in the lead up to final French election vote

The letter began by imagining the opening of the Paris 2024 Olympics, saying: “We cannot imagine that this historic moment could be scarred by the presence of the extreme right.”

It continued: “The sport we believe in, the sport of Olympic values, is made up of friendship and respect; it is a place of diversity. It rejects all forms of discrimination. Everywhere in the country, in our cities, our suburbs and our countryside, sport is a powerful remedy to exclusion.

“In these uncertain times, it is a vector for bringing people together. This is the case when a whole nation remembers that it is ONE by vibrating in unison behind the successes of its athletes.

“It is because we believe in sport, which is inclusive, that we are committed to preventing our nation from placing at its head a president who embodies the very opposite, the stigmatisation of the other, withdrawal into oneself, nationalism. 

“We therefore call for a vote for Emmanuel Macron on April 24.”

‘Universal values’

Michaël Jeremiasz, Paralympic wheelchair tennis doubles champion, and one of the signatories, explained that the letter had come out “of discussions with several sportspeople based on a common conviction of the urgency of the situation”.

He told FranceInfo: “Our cultural and ethnic origins should not be a determinant of anything. 

“That’s not the France that I want to live in, the values I have, or that I want to pass on to my child. The idea is to unite men and women around universal values of togetherness and tolerance, for a fairer and less discriminatory society.” 

‘Not for Macron, but against the Rassemblement national’

Yet, he reiterated that the letter was not “an unconditional support to the outgoing president” or for a “particular person”, but rather “a call to vote against the Rassemblement national”.

“It’s a collective mobilisation. In the past five years, the Rassemblement national has inched even closer to power. It's up to everyone to make sure this is not just a stand that blows over tomorrow. 

“Not a single sportsperson believes that [this] will change the world and make hundreds of thousands of people change their vote, [but] it's at least an expression of a feeling. Some people will like it, some people will not like it. It doesn't matter. 

“The important thing is to defend common convictions, and the values of sport.”

He added that the Paris Olympics and Paralympics in 2024 could be “a vector of change in society, a reduction in inequality, the taking into account of public health issues, a capacity to create social links. It must not just be a cosmetic phenomenon”.

He said: “We want to believe in a society where everyone can live in harmony, but we'll have to step up our game and do much more.” 

The full list of the current sport stars that have signed the open letter is:

Clarisse Agbégnénou (judo), Samir Aït Saïd (gymnastics), Valériane Ayayi Vukosavljević (basketball), Brahim Asloum (boxing), Romain Bardet (cycling), Cécilia Berder (fencing), Alain Bernard (swimming), Marie Bochet (para-alpine skiing), Laure Boulleau (football), Justine Braisaz-Bouchet (biathlon), Romain Cannone (fencing), Souleymane Cissokho (boxing), Élodie Clouvel (pentathlon), Cléopâtre Darleux (handball), Isabelle Demongeot (tennis), Stéphane Diagana (athletics), Boris Diaw (basketball), Céline Dumerc (basketball), Antoine Dupont (rugby), Gévrise Émane (judo), Maud Fontenoy (sailing), Pierre Gasly (Formula 1), Edgar Grospiron (ski), Amandine Henry (football), Stéphane Houdet (paratennis), Muriel Hurtis (athletics), Mickaël Jeremiasz (paratennis), Nikola Karabatic (handball), Raphaël Ibañez (rugby), Jean Le Cam (sailing), Eugénie Le Sommer (football), Christophe Lemaitre (athletics), Laure Manaudou (swimming), Blaise Matuidi (football), Frédéric Michalak (rugby), Estelle Mossely (boxing), Earvin Ngapeth (volley-ball), Valérie Nicolas (handball), Yannick Noah (tennis), Sarah Ourahmoune (boxing), Jean-Pierre Papin (football), Tony Parker (basketball), Dimitri Payet (football), Marie-José Pérec (athletics), Allison Pineau (handball), Thibaut Pinot (cycling), Jackson Richardson (handball), Charles Rozoy (paraswimming), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (tennis), Jessy Trémoulière (rugby), Cameron Woki (rugby), Tony Yoka (boxing).

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