In a rare display of affection for sports writers, 180 elite athletes signed a letter published on Friday in support of striking journalists at venerable French daily L'Equipe.

"Come back soon, make us experience sport, all sports, again, and continue to report for us, to report on me," wrote the athletes.

The group included an array of international stars, some active, some retired, including NBA center Rudy Gobert, Olympic gold medallists Marie-Jose Perec and Renaud Lavillenie, Roland Garros winner Yannick Noah, former UEFA president and France captain Michel Platini and Formula One champion Alain Prost as well as American former Tour de France champion Greg Lemond and Brazil centre back Dante.

"For years now, we've been rubbing shoulders, we've been talking by the side of the pitches, roads, swimming pools, gymnasiums, tracks," said the letter.

"Years of exchanging ideas and sometimes even arguing over them."

"By accompanying my first steps, my victories, my medals, you have been the link with my supporters, millions of sports enthusiasts. You did not hide my defeats, nor my doubts.

File photo, taken on June 9, 2015, shows a cover of L'Equipe File photo, taken on June 9, 2015, shows a cover of L'Equipe Photo: AFP / Joël SAGET

"I confided in you, it was sometimes tense, but we always made up. We have never broken that bond. Except these last few days when, absent from the kiosks, mobile phones and tablets, you leave us destitute."

Veteran French tennis player Nicolas Mahut echoed the sentiments on Twitter, writing: "How many times did I cut out interviews with my idol Pete Sampras from L'Equipe and stick them to the wall of my bedroom in Poitiers so I could sleep next to them and motivate myself."

The journalists are striking against a plan to cut 50 out of 350 jobs from the group, which includes L'Equipe, its weekly magazine, Velo News and France Football, which is going to go from being a weekly to a monthly publication.

The group says it anticipates losses of six million euros in 2021 and its plan would save five million euros.

"In recent months we have realised how essential sport is to our daily lives. For the past week we have also realised that sport is missing L'Equipe," French Sports Minister, Roxana Maracineanu, a former Olympic medallist, tweeted on Friday.