Following France’s win against Croatia at the 2018 World Cup on Sunday, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah opened Monday’s taping with a celebratory joke: “Africa won the World Cup!” The South African comedian was, of course, making light of the fact that, though France’s national team consists of French citizens, many are the parents of immigrants — like forward Kylian Mbappé — or immigrants themselves. And many of these players’ families hail not from the European continent, but from Africa. Even so, French soccer fans weren’t too pleased with Noah’s humor.
In fact, the French Ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud sent a letter to Noah protesting the joke and arguing it “legitimizes the ideology which claims whiteness as the only definition of being French.” Declaring that all of the players were “French citizens,” the ambassador went on to say they were “proud of their country” and that their “rich and various backgrounds… are a reflection of France’s diversity.”
Noah couldn’t resist the chance to respond, so he did during an online-only “Between the Scenes” segment that was uploaded to YouTube and social media. “I’m not trying to be an asshole, but I think it’s more a reflection of France’s colonialism,” Noah joked of Araud’s emphasis on diversity. The host admits he “understands” what the ambassador is saying, and acknowledges the criticism while adding that he “read up on this afterwards.” His conclusion? “Black people all over the world were celebrating the Africanness of the French players,” he said. “Why can’t they be both? Why is that duality afforded to a select group of people?”