Spain’s football federation has threatened to take legal action against one of the country’s star players, Jennifer Hermoso, accusing her of lying about being kissed by federation president Luis Rubiales.
Hermoso said Friday that at no point did she consent to a kiss by the country’s soccer chief – at the medal ceremony last Sunday after Spain had won the Women’s World Cup – writing on social media, “I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part.”
In a statement Friday, responding to Hermoso and Spain’s Association of Professional Soccer Players (FUTPRO), the federation defended Rubiales, who described the kiss as “mutual” and spoke of “unjust” campaigns and “fake feminism.”
“The evidence is conclusive. The President has not lied,” the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said, alongside descriptions of photos attempting to support Rubiales’ claim.
“The RFEF and the President will demonstrate each of the lies that are spread either by someone on behalf of the player or, if applicable, by the player herself.
“The RFEF and the President, given the seriousness of the content of the press release from the Futpro Union, will initiate the corresponding legal actions,” the statement said.
The federation went on to say that players had “an obligation” to participate in matches “if they are called for it,” after all 23 members of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad, including Hermoso, and nearly 50 other professional women soccer players, said they would not play again for the country until Rubiales is removed from his position.
On Saturday, the federation doubled down on its accusations of lying against Hermoso. In a since deleted statement, the RFEF said, “We have to state that Ms. Jennifer Hermoso lies in every statement she makes against the president” and again threatened legal action. It is unclear why the RFEF chose to delete the statement from its website.
On Saturday, soccer’s world governing body FIFA provisionally suspended Rubiales from “all football-related activities” after it said on Thursday that it had opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales as he may have violated the game’s “basic rules of decent conduct.”
A day of extraordinary events
Following Spain’s victory over England in the Women’s World Cup final, Rubiales was filmed kissing Hermoso on the lips after she had collected her winners’ medal, an act which the 33-year-old said later that day she “didn’t like” and “didn’t expect.”
Rubiales, who said on Monday he had “made a mistake,” has come under fierce criticism throughout the week, from the soccer world and some Spanish politicians, including Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, who said the apology for what he called an “unacceptable gesture” was “not enough.”
But on Friday the scandal escalated further when Rubiales made a defiant speech at the federation’s Extraordinary General Assembly, where he emphatically said he would not resign.
In responding to Rubiales’ speech, Hermoso said the RFEF president’s explanation of the incident was “categorically” false, adding: “I want to reiterate as I did before that I did not like this incident.”
She also described refusing requests to issue a statement to “alleviate the pressure” on Rubiales, saying she had been “under continuous pressure to make a statement that could justify Mr. Luis Rubiales’ actions.”
“Not only that, but in different ways and through different people, the REF has pressured my surroundings (family, friends, teammates, etc.) to give a testimony that had little or nothing to do with my feelings,” she added.
On a statement posted on the players union site FUTPRO and shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, the national team players said that those who had signed the statement would not “put themselves forward for National team selection as long as the actual leadership remains in place.”
“No woman should see herself needing to answer questions based on the blunt images that the entire world has seen and, of course, no one should be involved in attitudes without consent,” the statement read.
“It fills us with sadness that an act, so unacceptable as this, is managing to tarnish the biggest sporting achievement in Spanish women’s football history.”
Following Rubiales’ comments on Friday, the president of Spain’s High Council of Sport (CSD), Víctor Francos, said the council would look to suspend Rubiales as quickly as it could while following due process.
The CSD is an autonomous decision-making body of the Spanish government’s Ministry of Culture and Sport and has the potential power to demand the removal of Rubiales. However, to do so the body needs to follow a series of required steps, including having a complaint filed against him and the case having to be heard in front of a tribunal.
Some members of the Spanish soccer community have been especially critical of Rubiales’ speech, with Hermoso’s international teammate and two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas calling it “unacceptable.”
Spain men’s international striker Borja Iglesias said on social media he would not play for the national team “until things change,” while Spain’s acting second deputy prime minister, Yolanda Díaz, called for Rubiales to resign.
Patrick Sung, David Close and Kevin Dotson contributed reporting.