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The backstory: Earlier this month at the Women's World Cup final in Sydney, Spain won against England. But this victory was hijacked by a gesture that's still making waves around the world. Luis Rubiales, the head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), suddenly kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the official post-match ceremony. This gesture was caught on camera, and social media exploded with criticism.
Initial reactions to the kiss were all over the map. Hermoso said that she “didn’t like it” while speaking on a livestream. Rubiales, on the other hand, defended the kiss as a friendly celebratory act between pals. He shrugged off criticism, even labeling those who saw it differently as "idiots and stupid people."
As the days rolled on, this incident continued to make headlines in Spain. For example, Irene Montero, Spain’s equality minister, labeled it as a form of "sexual violence" that women face far too often, stressing the importance of not normalizing such behavior. She explained that “only yes is yes.”
More recently: Last Friday, Hermoso, her cup-winning teammates and other team members made a major announcement. They said they won't participate in international matches as long as Rubiales remains at the RFEF helm. So far, around 81 players have threatened to boycott. But Rubiales has held his ground, refusing to step down, and he's got the backing of the federation, which has even threatened legal action to shield his reputation. At a recent general assembly, Rubiales argued the kiss was consensual, saying he asked Hermoso beforehand, and she said “OK.”
Hermoso doesn't see it the way Rubiales does. She said that his version of a "consensual” gesture isn't the truth and that the conversation he says happened is completely fabricated. She opened up about feeling vulnerable and like a victim of aggression. She also talked about the pressure she felt coming from the Spanish federation to make a statement that would justify his actions.
The development: On Saturday, FIFA hit Rubiales with a temporary suspension as it investigates the incident. This means he's out of the football scene for 90 days. The Spanish government is also investigating and has begun legal proceedings to suspend him.
The RFEF acknowledged the suspension, putting out a statement that welcomes the opportunity for Rubiales to prove his innocence. And on top of all the players that are striking – eleven members of the coaching staff for Spain's women's team also decided to resign, saying they couldn't stand behind Rubiales' treatment of Hermoso. Their resignation was explicit in labeling his behavior as "unacceptable."
Jorge Vilda, the team's coach, remains in his position despite the departures of his colleagues. But, he made it clear that he does not align with Rubiales' take on things. He expressed regret that this situation has overshadowed the victory of women's football, condemning Rubiales' behavior as "inappropriate."
"I do not tolerate it when my word is put into doubt and less so when words that I have not said are invented," said Spanish player Jenni Hermoso.
"I will not resign, I will not resign, I will not resign," said Luis Rubiales, the head of Spain's football association. "It was a spontaneous kiss, mutual and euphoric," he said. "And, above all, consensual."
"We totally respect FIFA’s decision," said Spain's Secretary of State for Sport, Victor Francos, to reporters. "It reinforces our government’s position regarding the path we have started in this case. It goes in agreement with the highest spheres of international football. It says that the path chosen by the Spanish government is the right one."
“We have to state that Ms. Jennifer Hermoso lies in every statement she makes against the president. The facts are what they are; and, no matter how many statements are made to distort reality, it is impossible to change what happened. The peck [kiss] was consensual. The consent was given in the moment with the conditions of the moment. Later you can think that you have made a mistake, but you cannot change reality.” said the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in a statement.