French golfers compared to racists by Left-wing MP

Mathilde Panot, leader of the populist France Unbowed party
Mathilde Panot, leader of the populist France Unbowed party - EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP
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French golfers have reacted with fury after a Left-wing MP appeared to suggest they are all rich and racist.

In a speech aimed at encouraging voters to ensure they are registered, Mathilde Panot, leader of the France Unbowed party told the National Assembly: “The rich vote! Racists and golfers too. And you?”’

Golfers in France are often portrayed as a privileged class who destroy the countryside with their courses and cause water shortages.

Rejecting the MP’s remarks, France’s National Olympic Committee condemned the “unacceptable claims, unworthy of political debate in a democracy, which equate golfers and racists”.

In a statement, the committee said golfers “do not have to be exploited or stigmatised by political leaders lacking ideas”.

Matthieu Pavon
Matthieu Pavon became the first Frenchman to win a tournament on the PGA Tour in January - RYAN SUN/AP PHOTO

Pascal Grizot, president of the French Golf Federation, also protested against the comments.

“We were surprised – and let’s say it, quite shocked – to see that you assimilate golf players in categories of populations that you do not seem to hold in great esteem,” Mr Grizot said in an open letter.

“You seem to ignore the sociology of our sport, the practice of which continues to become popular and now brings together more than 600,000 players in France, of whom 446,000 are licensed with our federation.

“Golf was as widely played in France in 2023 as handball, basketball and even judo – acceptable disciplines which don’t seem to be the subject of the same denigration on your part.”

Accusing Ms Panot of “demagoguery,” Mr Grizot said: ‘It’s just a shame to want to divide the French once again.”

He added: “There are Right-wing golfers, Left-wing golfers and even France Unbowed golfers.

Mathilde Panot
Ms Panot's comments led to a backlash from France’s National Olympic Committee and the French Golf Federation - LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP

“I’ve received messages from people saying, ‘I vote France Unbowed but perhaps, after Mathilde Panot’s claims, I will change my mind’.”

Matthieu Pavon, a 31-year-old golf pro from Toulouse, in January became the first Frenchman to win a tournament on the PGA Tour in America.

Last year, Céline Boutier, 30 and from greater Paris, won her first Grand Slam and was declared European Number One.

Both players are from relatively modest backgrounds, which is typical of those who take up golf in France, according to the Federation.

Golf will be one of the key sports when France hosts the Olympics and Paralympics this summer.

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