French clothing and fashion group Lacoste is going through a rough patch in Morocco.
A viral campaign using the hashtag #BoycottLacoste demanding a boycott of the famous brand and even the closure of its 18 stores in the kingdom.
The reason? A polo shirt.
Specifically, the polo shirt for the summer season 2023 for men “Lacoste Original L. 12. 12 Planisphere Polo”. The world map printed on this polo shirt, denounced by many Moroccan social media users, shows a border between Morocco and Western Sahara.
Morocco has claimed Western Sahara as part of its territory since the end of Spanish colonial rule in 1975.
Stay informed with MEE newsletters
Sign up to receive the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked
Although that status has long been internationally disputed, in December 2020, the President of the United States at the time, Donald Trump, agreed to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory in exchange for Morocco’s recognition of Israel, a position not reversed by the current Biden administration.
#Boycottlacoste #Morocco #sahara
We are very concerned to learn that Lacoste recently published a map of Morocco that separates the Sahara from the rest of the country. This decision is very damaging to the territorial integrity of Morocco and cannot be accepted. pic.twitter.com/BU1o8YCc4W
— moroccan_tweet (@moroccan__tweet) March 22, 2023
Between 1975 and 1991, the Polisario Front – a Sahrawi group supported by Algeria – fought an armed struggle with Morocco for independence for Western Sahara.
In 1991, a ceasefire was established which broke down in November 2020, leading to rising violence and a deterioration in relations between Morocco and Algeria.
Since then, Saharawi campaigners have complained of a tougher crackdown by Moroccan authorities.
Paris-Rabat diplomatic tensions
Social media users expressed their disapproval of the map on the Lacoste shirt, with one Moroccan woman posting Twitter a video in which she filmed herself cutting a Lacoste bag with scissors.
“The IS [Lacoste] brand back politically in the form of a polo shirt by cutting Morocco in half. Morocco is with its Sahara whether you like it or not,” write one Twitter user.
“I often go to the Lacoste store in my city for my purchases,” write another. “Since Lacoste does not respect the integrity of my country, I boycott it and I invite all Moroccans to do the same.”
En tant que consommateur, je refuse d’acheter un produit qui manque de respect à l’integrity territoriale d’un pays. Lacoste, retirez ce polo offensive et presentez des excuses aux Marocains #boycottLacoste #respect #Morocco pic.twitter.com/YkZ1PijqFj
— BIPBIPCARS (@bipbipcars1) March 17, 2023
Translation: “As a consumer, I refuse to buy a product that disregards the territorial integrity of a country. Lacoste, remove this offensive polo shirt and apologize to the Moroccans”.
Some have linked the release of the shirt by the French company to the diplomatic tension between Paris and Rabat in recent years.
المغربة launched a boycott campaign against the French brand Lacoste after the launch of the Lacoste group.#Boycottlacoste
— Badre Marocco 🇲🇦🇲🇦 (@badre_marocco) March 17, 2023
Translation: “Moroccans have launched a boycott campaign against the French brand Lacoste after its collection showing a truncated map of Morocco. The sign is part of a long chain of unfriendly French activities, both formal and informal, that are taking place with several months ago.“.
France-Morocco relations have deteriorated since France’s decision to reduce the number of visas granted to Morocco in September 2021, on the grounds that Rabat refused the consular passports necessary to deport its nationals in an irregular situation in France. issue.
In addition, Morocco’s alleged involvement in spying on senior French officials through the Israeli spy agency Pegasus, including President Emmanuel Macron, fulfilled the breakdown in communication between the two heads of state, and the visit of the French President to Morocco that was scheduled for October last year postponed indefinitely. .
The tension is exacerbated by Paris’s attempt to maintain a balanced position on the Western Sahara issue, while Morocco demands an unambiguous position in favor of its partners.
Middle East Eye has contacted Lacoste for comment but has not received a response by the time of publication.