President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, is facing backlash after a nonconsensual kiss with Spanish professional footballer Jennifer Hermoso during the World Cup awards ceremony.
On an Instagram live after the win, Hermoso said that she did not enjoy the impulsive kiss. She later emphasized that it was out of place and without consent.
Protesters and women’s rights groups took to the streets throughout Spain after the incident, calling for Rubiales’ resignation.
On Sunday, Sept. 10, Rubiales announced his resignation after three weeks of refusing.
Rubiales exclusively told conservative English broadcaster and journalist, Piers Morgan, about his decision to resign. Rubiales said after speaking to his family, he decided that he will now focus on his dignity and his life outside of the role.
The Road to Resigning
Prior to Rubiales’ resignation, the RFEF president received pressure by many organizations.
After the controversy, the International Federation of Association Football, FIFA, suspended Rubiales and prohibited him from participating in any level of football activities for at least 90 days. He is also not allowed to contact Hermoso in any way.
After Spanish prosecutors opened a criminal investigation regarding the situation, Rubiales’ association called on him to step down.
The Spanish public increased pressure by posting under the hashtag, “se acabo” (it’s over) on social media. Some are calling the movement to end sexism in sports Spain’s #MeToo Movement.
Despite pressures, Rubiales’ initial refusal emphasized the history of sexism in female sports teams, and many football viewers are calling for change.
This incident with Rubiales isn’t the only negative experience the Spanish women’s football team endured recently.
In 2015, Ignacio Quereda’s 27 years as head coach of the Spanish women’s national team ended due to allegations of sexism.
Last year, 15 players didn’t play on the national team because of issues surrounding the lack of professionalism and organization.
Several female football players exposed alleged inappropriate behavior they experienced by their coaches. The players said they were asked to leave their hotel room doors open late. They also claimed they were subjected to unwarranted bag inspections while they were out of the room.
However, the federation largely ignored the players’ complaints last year. Instead, head coach Jorge Vilda received support from the federation. The players were asked to apologize.
The main criticism Vilda and the coaching staff received is from the public, rather than the federation or any governing bodies.
During the World Cup award ceremony, the Australian audience booed Vilda twice while he was celebrating.
Last week, however, the federation ousted Vilda after players complained about his alleged controlling behavior and questionable methods for months.
Vilda’s replacement, Montse Tomé, will be the first woman to hold this position in Spain.
After Rubiales kissed Hermoso in front of a global audience, politicians and athletes called for his resignation.
An organization called FUTPRO dedicates resources to supporting and defending the rights of women. A group of Spanish female football players associated with the group shared an extensive list of supporters who are calling for change on Twitter.
FUTPRO’s statement calls for action from public authorities for an appropriate punishment.
Spanish politician Yolanda Díaz wrote on Twitter, “We accompany the fight of female soccer players, which is that of the whole society.”
Other football organizations, such as Liga F and FIFPRO issued statements supporting Hermoso.
Liga F, the highest league level for women’s football in Spain, put out a statement that requested the disqualification of Rubiales.
“It’s not just about the kiss,” the statement on Liga F’s website reads. “It is an attitude that is far removed from the values of our society. An attitude that has gone down in the history of world sport and, most seriously, that will remain forever linked to our Women’s National Team.”
The Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels (FIFPRO) is an organization that represents athletes globally.
FIFPRO supported the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE) on Twitter, calling for immediate action and an investigation of Rubiales under the code of FIFA ethics.
Soon after the event, 11 members of the Spanish women’s team coaching staff said they were resigning.
In response to the situation, former Spanish World-Cup goalkeeper and 2020 RFEF president candidate, Iker Casillas, tweeted “So has someone resigned or not? What am I missing?”
Real Betis player known as Isco also supported Hermoso by saying in an interview, “If the kiss was without consent, I think that it was an abuse of power and I send my full support to Jenni.”
Internationally, the incident garnered the attention of Megan Rapinoe, a football player on the U.S. women’s national team.
Rapinoe talked about the scenario during an interview with the Atlantic last month. She emphasized the misogyny and sexism that female football players endure.
“On the biggest stage, where you should be celebrating, Jenni has to be physically assaulted by this guy,” Rapinoe said in the interview.
Opposingly, Rubiales has significant support from his mother, Ángeles Béjar. Béjar locked herself in a church in Motril, Spain on Monday, Aug. 28 in response to Rubiales’ suspension.
Last week, Hermoso filed a complaint against Rubiales to prosecutors.
Now that the Spanish national prosecutor filed a sexual assault and coercion complaint against Rubiales, he can face up to four years in prison.