French Sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said Wednesday that Novak Djokovic's political message about Kosovo was not appropriate and warned the former top-ranked Serb player that he should not do it again.
Speaking on TV station France 2, Oudea-Castera said French Open director Amelie Mauresmo spoke with Djokovic and his entourage to insist on the principle of neutrality" on the field of play.
When it comes to defending human rights and bringing people together around universal values, a sportsperson is free to do so, she said. But Oudea-Castera added that Djokovic's message was militant, very political and must not be repeated.
Djokovic has drawn criticism from Kosovo's tennis federation after offering his thoughts on clashes in northern Kosovo between ethnic Serbs and police and NATO peacekeepers.
After a first-round victory in Paris on Monday, Djokovic wrote in Serbian on the lens of a courtside TV camera: Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence.
Kosovo's tennis federation said Tuesday that Djokovic's comments were deplorable because he was stoking tensions between Serbia and Kosovo.
A former province of Serbia, Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence is not recognized by Belgrade. Ethnic Albanians make up most of the population, but Kosovo has a restive Serb minority in the north of the country bordering Serbia.
Djokovic, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, is scheduled to play in the second round at Roland Garros on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in Serbian, Djokovic said Monday that he thought what he wrote on the TV camera was the least I could do. I feel responsibility as a public figure ... as well as a son of a man who was born in Kosovo.
Without mentioning Djokovic by name, French Open organizers indicated in a statement issued Tuesday that no rules had been broken, saying: Occasionally, discussions about international news events enter the realm of the tournament, which is understandable.