The president told French television that racism and homophobia wouldn’t be tolerated at soccer games, and called for matches to be stopped if hateful incidents occur.
“We cannot become accustomed to homophobia and racism on the pretext that we are in a football stadium,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse. “There is no sport whose DNA, whose roots, whose mentality is hate speech.”
Homophobia and racism have been longstanding issues across European soccer leagues. In April, a defender for French soccer team Amiens SC, Prince Gouano, was targeted by racist insults from fans of the opposing team, Dijon FCO. The player, who is black, paused the game to confront fans after he heard what he believed to be monkey noises.
While there have been a string of racist incidents on the field in recent memory, black players have been the subject of racist abuse since the 1970s, when sports fans threw banana peels at athletes of color. The trend has continued into recent years.
“We fight against homophobia and racism throughout society,” Macron said. “Should we accept it in our stadiums? Of course not.”
Macron joins FIFA President Gianni Infantino in calling for stricter action against racism at matches. In April, Infantino said in a statement that in the most serious cases of racial abuse, referees would suspend and ultimately end games.
“FIFA urges all member associations, leagues, clubs and disciplinary bodies to adopt the same procedure ... and to apply harsh sanctions for any such kind of behavior,” Infantino said. “Racism has no place in football, just as it has no place in society either.”