Le Pen allies tell Kylian Mbappe to ‘show restraint’ after election comments

Senior members of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) party said Kylian Mbappe should show “restraint” after the football megastar used a Euros press conference to speak out against voting for “extremes” .

Sebastien Chenu, the vice president of the RN, told Mbappe, 25, to focus on football after the striker appealed to his young French fans regarding the upcoming election.

“When you have the chance, the honour of wearing the jersey of the French team, you have to show a little restraint,” Mr Chenu said just a few hours before the French football team’s opening match at Euro 2024.

Mr Chenu suggested that the country’s national football hero stick to his own lane and stay out of politics, and that the French do not need people who are “very far removed from their daily concerns to come and tell them how to vote”.

Sebastien Chenu
RN's Sebastien Chenu said footballers such as Kylian Mbappe are 'far removed from their daily concerns' - Reuters/Sarach Meyssonnier

It comes as 160 French athletes penned an open letter urging voters to reject Le Pen’s party at France’s parliamentary election on July 7. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, called the snap poll after a humiliating defeat in the European elections.

During Sunday’s press conference, the French captain said he wanted to defend the “values of diversity, tolerance, respect”.

“I want to address the French people, especially the younger generation,” Mbappe said. “We can make a difference. Extremes can come to power. I hope my voice will carry as much weight as possible. We need to identify ourselves. We have values of diversity, tolerance and respect. Every voice counts, and that’s something we can’t ignore. I hope we’ll make the right choice and that we’ll still be proud to wear the French national team jersey on July 7.”

While Mbappe stopped short of identifying the RN, he said he supported his team-mate Marcus Thuram who had explicitly appealed to his fans to block the RN at the parliamentary elections.

Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe is key to France's hopes of winning the European Championship and hopes his voice 'carries as much weight as possible' regarding the election - AFP/Franck Fife

But politicians from both ends of the political spectrum deflected Mbappe’s statements, claiming the comments didn’t concern them.

“I may surprise you, but he’s right,” said RN spokesman Laurent Jacobelli in an interview with France Info. “Neither I nor my party is concerned by the word ‘extreme’.”

Manon Aubry of the far-Left France Unbowed party had a similar reaction.

“I don’t feel targeted, I’m on the Left,” Ms Aubry said on LCI.

Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen's RN is leading in the polls for the snap election on July 7 - APF/Ludovic Marin

Gabriel Attal, the prime minister, also reacted to Mbappe’s statements on Monday, saying the footballer was well within his bounds of speaking as a role model for his fans. The football star boasts a tremendous social media following with 118 million followers on Instagram.

“I deeply believe that young people who speak to young people, who are models for them, obviously are in their role when they call on them to fulfil a civic duty which is that of voting, and then, indeed, he said that he refused extremes, which are the fuel of division, of hatred of others. I think a lot of young people find themselves behind Kylian Mbappe,” Mr Attal said on news radio channel RTL.

Following the France captain’s statement, 160 French athletes representing sports such as rugby, tennis, football, basketball and judo also released an open letter in the sports newspaper L’Equipe late on Sunday, urging the public to vote against the far-Right.

“Respect is one of the cornerstones of sport: respect for opponents on the pitch, respect for those who don’t think like us, respect for the environment. The extreme right tramples on this respect every day,” the letter reads.

“We call on all sports fans to mobilise against the rise of the extreme right. On June 30 and July 7, voting will be not only a civic duty, but also an act of love for our country, for our loved ones, and for all those more fragile than us, who will be prey to discrimination if the extreme right comes to power.”

Signatories include former and present tennis stars Yannick Noah, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marion Bartoli.