(CNN) — French soccer team Toulouse did not select several players for its Ligue 1 game against Nantes on Sunday after they refused to participate in a league-wide anti-homophobia campaign.
“Some players of the professional squad have expressed their disagreement regarding the association of their image with the rainbow colors representing the LGBT movement,” Toulouse FC said in a statement Sunday.
“Although respecting the individual choices of its players, and after numerous exchanges, the Toulouse Football Club has chosen to exclude these players from the game,” the Ligue 1 club added.
French teams playing in the country’s top two divisions were asked to don rainbow-colored numbers and hold banners as a way of raising attention for International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Toulouse FC did not name the players they had excluded but Moroccan international Zakaria Aboukhlal confirmed on social media that he “made the decision not to take part in today’s [Sunday’s] game.”
“First and foremost, I want to emphasise that I hold the highest regard for every individual regardless of their personal preferences, gender, religion or background. This is a principle that cannot be emphasised enough,” Aboukhlal said.
“Respect is a value that I hold in great esteem. It extends to others, but it also encompasses respect for my own personal beliefs. Hence, I don’t believe I am the most suitable person to participate in this campaign.”
Toulouse drew 0-0 with Nantes Sunday and currently sits 13th in the league.
Nantes’ Egyptian international Mostafa Mohamed also posted on social media Sunday explaining his reasons for not participating in the campaign and the fixture.
“I don’t want to argue at all but I have to state my position,” Mohamed tweeted.
“I respect all differences. I respect all beliefs and convictions. This respect extends to others but also includes respect for my personal beliefs.
“Given my roots, my culture, the importance of my convictions and beliefs, it was not possible for me to participate in this campaign. I hope that my decision will be respected, as well as my wish not to argue about this and that everyone is treated with respect.”
In a statement, Nantes said it had decided to sanction Mohamed financially after he refused to play “at a time when FC Nantes is fighting to stay in Ligue 1.”
“FC Nantes and its foundation wish to donate this money to the association SOS Homophobie which fights against homophobia each day and will be able to put it to good use in order to fight against this scourge,” the statement read.
“FC Nantes also condemns in the strongest terms the threats sent against Mostafa Mohamed and his family, before as well as after the match.”
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