The French football league president has taken a clearer stance against homophobia after her comments linking insulting chants to football folklore were criticized by the government and anti-discrimination groups.
At a meeting at the sports ministry on Tuesday, Nathalie Boy de la Tour clarified her position on the issue, saying she “condemns all homophobic words.”
The issue started on March 17 during a league match at the Parc des Princes between fierce rivals Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille that was marred by homophobic chants by PSG fans. Sports minister Roxana Maracineanu attended the game and said afterwards she was appalled, and would not take her children to the stadium.
Asked to comment on the issue, Boy de la Tour said on Monday at a meeting organized with the International League against Racism and anti-Semitism (LICRA), that some football fans considered these chants as folklore. She, however, insisted she did not share their views.
“I’m not excusing what happened,” she said. “When it comes to homophobic chants, for many fans, it’s part of folklore. This is the reality. The majority of fans (chanting) don’t have the feeling they are hurting others. But I’m not telling you this is not serious. There is important work to do to educate people.”
Her comments drew the ire of SOS Homophobie, a group fighting violence and discrimination against LGBT people.
“To consider, like the LFP president does, that homophobic chants in football stadia are part of folklore tends to minimize and tolerate homophobia,” the group tweeted.
Marlene Schiappa, the French secretary of state for women’s rights, joined the criticism, saying “we cannot admit this argument.”
The French league admits it struggles to identify the authors of homophobic chants, while French police are adamant that racist or anti-Semitic acts have become rare at professional games. Antoine Mordacq, a police officer in charge of coordinating the fight against hooliganism, told The Associated Press he believes there has not been a single conviction related to an incident at a soccer stadium this season.
According to the French league, the most recent racist incident registered in a French professional game dates to February 2018 when striker Mario Balotelli, who is black, claimed he received racist insults from Dijon fans. More recently, the league joined a lawsuit filed by LICRA after an anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist tag targeting French star Kylian Mbappe was found in a Paris train station.