This summer’s much anticipated event for a lot of people was the Women’s World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. During the tournament, we all thought the biggest controversy was going to be the back-to-back reigning champions, the United States, losing right after the group stages. There was a lot of great soccer (or football for our readers outside the US) to be played. Spain played amazingly in all stages of the World Cup and truly deserved to win.
However, their historic first-ever World Cup win over England was marred by controversy. During the medal presentation ceremony, Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales forcibly grabbed Jennifer Hermoso’s head with both hands and non-consensually kissed her on the lips. A video later came out that he made a crotch-grabbing gesture during his celebration of their win in front of the Queen and Princess of Spain.
During a livestream in the locker room after the medal presentation, Hermoso said that she didn’t like the kiss. Many Spanish officials within the RFEF condemned Rubiales’s actions. Spain’s Minister for Culture and Sport, Miquel Iceta, said, "It seems unacceptable to me. We're in a moment of equality, of rights and respect for women. We all have to be particularly careful in our attitudes and our actions. I think it's unacceptable to kiss a player on the lips to congratulate her."
On Monday, Rubiales issued an apology video that many people found to be insufficient and inadequate. After the apology video, many Spanish news outlets thought that Rubiales was going to step down as president of the RFEF. At the much anticipated press conference on Friday, August 25th, Rubiales continued to say he did nothing wrong and consistently repeated that he was not going to resign and was applauded for his statement by his mostly-male audience. As I’m writing this on August 26, FIFA has suspended Rubiales for 90 days pending the disciplinary proceedings opened against Mr. Luis Rubiales on Thursday, Aug. 24.
While all this was going on, Jennifer Hermoso was being pressured into making a joint statement with Rubiales clearing him of the allegations of assault. She made a statement on Wednesday saying, “My union, FUTPRO, in coordination with my agency, TMJ, are taking care of defending my interests and being the interlocutors on this matter." On Friday, she did another press release on many forms of social media repeating that she didn’t like the kiss. She continued to say that she would not play on the national soccer team while the current leadership remains. You can read her whole statement here.
This situation is, unfortunately, very relatable to many women internationally. So often, people think that the violence that happens is specific to their country when it’s an international issue. This happens to people from all walks of life: from kids in school all the way to international stars. Sometimes it's private and sometimes it’s internationally televised. And that’s the problem. While I listed out many of the people who were supporting Jenni Hermoso and condemning Luis Rubiales, there are plenty of people who have and are continuing to deny that Rubiales’s actions were wrong despite the fact that his victim is saying she didn’t like or want the kiss.
IMPACT wants everyone to be able to live their lives without fear of violence. Changing the world starts small. It starts with believing people, especially women, when they say something is wrong. While it’s okay to have healthy skepticism, straight up lying and saying that everything was okay and Hermoso was totally fine with it, when she herself is saying the exact opposite, is wrong.
While this situation sounds like it’s all doom and gloom, let’s talk about the positive support Hermoso is receiving and the follow-through on the investigations. All 22 of her teammates of the World Cup winning squad, along with more than 50 more players and most of the coaching staff, stood in solidarity with their teammate and are refusing to play for Spain while Rubiales was in charge. The Spanish government filed suit alleging that ”Rubiales violated the country’s sports laws through sexist acts.” If found guilty, Rubiales could be ruled unfit to hold office. Major Spanish teams, such as Real Madrid and Barcelona, have issued statements supporting the Spanish government’s investigation as well as condemning Rubiales’s actions. Seeing all of these people come out and support Jenni Hermoso and condemn sexist acts like Rubiales shows that there is hope for a better future where these violent acts are no longer accepted.