The far right National Front party has demanded that Benzema, 25, who plays for Real Madrid in Spain, be sacked from the French national team for declaring he had never sung the French national anthem – the Marseillaise before an international game, and would continue not to.
Eric Domard – sporting advisor to National Front leader Marine LePen – said in a statement on Tuesday that “[Benzema] shows an inconceivable and unacceptable contempt for the jersey he has the fortune to be able to wear.”
Labeling him a “footballing mercenary paid €1484 an hour,” Domard further declared that “since Karim Benzema sees no problem with not singing the Marseillaise, the French people should have no problem with him not playing for France anymore.”
Benzema, whose parents are of Algerian origin, provoked the ire of the anti-immigration party in an interview with RMC radio on Tuesday.
“No one is going to force me to sing the Marseillaise”, he said.
“I don’t see the problem with not singing the Marseillaise…There are even supporters who don’t sing it.
"I am not going to score a hat-trick just because I sang the Marseillaise," the defiant striker added.
Benzema pointed out that the French legend Zinedine Zidane, who is of Algerian origin, also never sang the Marseilleise before a match.
And he refuted suggestions that not singing the anthem meant he cared little for the famous blue jersey.
"It is a dream for me to play for France," he said.
It is not first time the divisive issue of French players not singing the national anthem has reared its head in France.
Former French captain Patrick Vieira has been forced to defend his decision never to sing the anthem.
"I do not understand [the controversy], this is a false problem. I never sung it but that does not mean that my heart is not pounding. Lilian Thuram sang it but that does not mean that he loves France more than me. "
Benzema's statement has provoked reaction on social media site Twitter, where opinions were divided, with one French tweeter labelling him an "enemy of the French republic", and calling for his resignation from the team.
Karim Benzema should be evaluated, praised or criticized based upon what he does on the pitch. Not whether or not he chooses to sing.
— Steve Amoia (@worldfootballcm) March 20, 2013
— Alexis .G (@AlexisGerot) March 20, 2013