The president of the Spanish soccer federation is refusing to resign from his post amid widespread condemnation after he kissed forward Jennifer Hermoso on the lips as the Spanish national women’s team celebrated its historic first World Cup win.
Spain was crowned World Cup winners last Sunday after beating England 1-0, but the incident during the medals ceremony has largely overshadowed the victory. During the ceremony, federation president Luis Rubiales grabbed Hermoso, kissed her cheeks, and then on the lips. In an Instagram Live video later, Hermoso and her teammates could be heard discussing the kiss and expressing their distaste. Hermoso herself said, “Hey, but I didn’t like that.”
In the immediate aftermath, Rubiales issued a half-baked apology, where he said, “I have to apologize,” and, “Probably I made a mistake.” In the days following, calls for Rubiales’ resignation grew, and news reports seemed to confirm that he would officially step down after five years as the head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).
But at a federation meeting Friday, Aug. 25, he loudly rebuffed those claims, stating, “I will not resign” and “I will fight this to the end” (via The New York Times). Rubiales went on to claim the kiss was “free, mutual, and consensual” and that Hermoso “was the one who lifted me up.” He also stated he was the victim of a “social assassination,” derided his critics for practicing “false feminism,” and even threatened to take prominent Spanish politicians to court for calling for his resignation after describing his actions as “harassment.”
In response, Spain’s Player Association released a letter signed by all 23 members of the World Cup-winning squad stating that they “will not go back to the national team under the current leaders.” The letter contained an additional statement from Hermoso, who rejected Rubiales’ characterization of the kiss.
“I want to clarify that, as seen in the images, at no time did I consent to the kiss that he gave me, and, of course, in no case did I lift the president,” said Hermoso. “I do not tolerate my word being questioned and much less that they invent words I never said.”
Hermoso’s teammate, Alexia Putellas — captain of the women’s national team and two-time winner of soccer’s top individual prize, the Ballon d’Or — tweeted, “Esto es inaceptable. Se acabó. Contigo compañera @Jennihermoso.” (Translation: “This is unacceptable. It’s over. With you partner @Jennihermoso.”)
U.S. star Alex Morgan also voiced her support, tweeting, “I’m disgusted by the public actions of Luis Rubiales. I stand by @Jennihermoso and the Spanish players. Winning a World Cup should be one of the best moments in these players’ lives but instead it’s overshadowed by assault, misogyny, and failures by the Spanish federation.”
While the Spanish government doesn’t have much leeway to punish members of the RFEF, they seemed determined to oust Rubiales following his statements. Victor Francos, president of the National Sports Council and Secretary of State for sports, said, “We’re going to act — we’ve activated all the mechanisms to take appropriate measures.”