Backlash After Spanish Football Exec Kisses World Cup Player During Medal Ceremony

Luis Rubiales has since apologized, after initially dismissing uproar over the incident.
Spanish soccer exec Luis Rubiales has been criticized for kissing Spain player Jennifer Hermoso following the nation's World Cup victory.
Spanish soccer exec Luis Rubiales has been criticized for kissing Spain player Jennifer Hermoso following the nation's World Cup victory.
Getty

Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) President Luis Rubiales has apologized after kissing Spanish forward Jennifer Hermoso on the lips during the medal ceremony celebrating the team’s Women’s World Cup victory.

The incident sparked fierce backlash on social media and calls for his resignation.

After Spain took down England, 1-0, players queued onstage in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday to receive their medals and congratulations from officials.

When Hermoso reached Rubiales, he embraced her, grabbed her face and kissed her, video of the moment showed.

“Hey, but I didn’t like it,” Hermoso later said of the kiss in an Instagram Live as she and teammates celebrated in the locker room, according to a recording of the livestream posted online that has been translated from Spanish.

However, in a statement given to media later by the RFEF, Hermoso described it as a “natural gesture of affection.”

“It was a totally spontaneous mutual gesture because of the immense joy that winning a World Cup brings,” the statement attributed to Hermoso said, according to a translation. “The president and I have a great relationship, his behavior with all of us has been outstanding and it was a natural gesture of affection and gratitude.

“We have won a World Cup and we are not going to lose sight of what is important,” the statement said.

After initially dismissing criticism of the incident, Rubiales apologized on Monday in a video statement shared by the soccer federation.

“I have to apologize,” Rubiales said in the video, according to a translation from Spanish by The New York Times. “Probably I made a mistake.”

He added that there was “no bad intention by either party” and “we saw it as natural,” but “it has caused a commotion and people are offended, so I must apologize.”

Rubiales greets player Aitana Bonmati of Spain during the medal ceremony. The Spanish soccer exec kissed several players on their cheeks.
Rubiales greets player Aitana Bonmati of Spain during the medal ceremony. The Spanish soccer exec kissed several players on their cheeks.
Catherine Ivill via Getty Images

On Sunday, Rubiales had rejected charges that the kiss was inappropriate, telling Spain’s Radio Marca that people describing it as such were “idiots.”

“When two people have an unimportant gesture of affection, we can’t listen to idiocy,” he said.

On social media, Rubiales’ actions were widely criticized.

Craig Foster, a human rights activist and former Australian national soccer player, called for Rubiales to be “stood down immediately.”

“Women in sport are daily subject to an extreme power differential, objectification, harassment, sexual abuse and an absence of agency and power. This is horrific,” he posted.

Telegraph Women’s Sport reporter Molly McElwee said it was sickening.

“For Luis Rubiales to do this to Jenni Hermoso during the proudest moment of her career, stood next to Spain’s royal family, and with the world’s media watching, makes me sick,” she wrote. “The complete audacity. Reminder that this is the leader of a federation that failed to back its players.”

Rubiales also held and embraced other players as they received their medals, kissing some of them on their cheeks.

Spanish TV presenter Claudya Carolina slammed Rubiales’ behavior as “unpresentable” and accused him of touching the players “excessively.”

Spain’s World Cup victory follows a tumultuous year for the team, which revolted against its coach, Jorge Vilda, last fall.

Fifteen players on the team said last year they would not play under Vilda, whose management and coaching style they said had negative affects on their emotional state and their health.

The RFEF backed Vilda, who stayed on as coach. The players who rebuked him were forced to apologize as a condition of their return to the team.

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