The uproar over a post-victory embrace is escalating, with Spain’s football federation threatening to take legal action over star player Jenni Hermoso’s latest statements over the incident.
Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish football federation, is defying calls to resign over accusations that his celebratory kiss with Hermoso, a member of Spain’s World Cup-winning women’s team, happened without her consent. Hermoso and 80 other Spanish football players said late Friday that they would not play for the national team as long as “the current leaders continue.”
In a statement published in response to the players’ announcement, the Spanish football federation (RFEF) said it would pursue “all legal actions … in defense” of Rubiales. The statement, dated Friday, includes photos which the RFEF claims support his version of events. Rubiales “clearly and simply explained how the events” occurred, according to the statement.
The fresh round of claims and counterclaims appears to be about Hermoso’s physical handling of Rubiales, distinct from the kiss.
“I want to clarify that, as seen in the footage, I never consented to the kiss he gave me, and, of course, I never intended to lift the president in the air,” Hermoso is quoted as saying in the English-language version of the players’ statement, which was also issued in Spanish.
The RFEF statement highlights the second part of her claim, and includes a series of photos that the federation says show Hermoso lifting Rubiales off the ground.
“The evidence is conclusive. Mr. President has not lied,” the statement contends, adding that the RFEF and Rubiales will offer proof about “each of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if it is the case, by the player herself.”
The RFEF statement did not directly address the kiss, which aired live around the world, or the broader claims of sexism that the incident has prompted. With FIFA launching disciplinary proceedings over his behavior — which included an instance where he appeared to aggressively grab his crotch during the match — Rubiales defied expectations to resign on Friday. Instead, he delivered a fiery speech, casting himself as the victim of “false feminism” and claiming that he asked and received permission from Hermoso to give her a “little kiss.”
Hermoso fired back in a separate statement on Friday evening, denying that the exchange took place. “I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out-of-place act without any consent on my part,” she said on social media, adding that she’d been pressured to make a statement in favor of Rubiales.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his government are siding unequivocally with Hermoso and the players. Rubiales “should not stay in office any longer and the government will take any actions to step him down,” Deputy Prime Minister Teresa Ribera told POLITICO, calling Rubiales’s actions “shameful” and “unacceptable.”
While the government does not have direct authority over the football chief, the sports ministry has launched an administrative process that could ultimately lead to him being sacked if he’s found to have breached the law.