U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe ripped Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales after the soccer official was seen kissing player Jennifer Hermoso and grabbing his crotch in celebration as Spain won the Women’s World Cup.
Rubiales has since apologized for his actions but is still facing calls to step down from his post – primarily from Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Rapinoe brought up Spain’s players coming forward with negligence allegations months before the start of the Women’s World Cup. And even through all of that, Spain still managed to pick up its first championship.
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“It made me think about how much we are required to endure,” Rapinoe told the outlet. “Think how much that Spanish team had to shoulder: Some of the players who stood up way back last year [to protest poor treatment by their coach and federation] still aren’t on the team. Maybe that was something that galvanized them, but you shouldn’t have to have that.”
She then blasted Rubiales.
“There was another picture that signals such a deep level of misogyny and sexism in that federation and in that man at the final whistle just grabbing his crotch,” she said. “What kind of upside-down world are we in? On the biggest stage, where you should be celebrating, Jenni has to be physically assaulted by this guy.”
Rubiales is still under fire for the kiss and his actions at the final. Sánchez called Rubiales’ actions “unacceptable.”
“And the apologies offered by Mr. Rubiales are not sufficient, I would call them inappropriate, so he must continue taking further steps to clarify what we all saw,” he said.
The soccer federation said it was opening an internal probe “regarding the incidents during the awards ceremony Women’s World Cup.”
Rubiales first doubled down, calling the critics “idiots and stupid people.” He then apologized Monday.
SPANISH FA PRESIDENT’S KISS ON JENNIFER HERMOSO AFTER WOMEN’S WORLD CUP VICTORY SPARKS CONTROVERSY
Spain’s players union called for the country’s Higher Council for Sports to act against Rubiales if he does not step down. The union cited Spain’s sports law that sanctions acts that “damage the dignity” of someone or “creates an atmosphere of intimidation” based on unwanted conduct related to gender or race.
“The incident regarding Jenni Hermoso is especially grave since she finds herself in a situation of vulnerability before a person in a position of power,” the union said. “A once-in-a-lifetime celebration for the Spanish players has been overshadowed by the improper behavior of the federation president.”
Spain’s Higher Council for Sports told the AP that it received a formal complaint against Rubiales filed by the president of Spain’s national school for soccer coaches, Miguel Galan. The organization said it was studying the complaint.
The Spain squad was in near-mutiny last year because of complaints against coach Jorge Vilda. The players demanded better coaching and preparation to get more out of the team.
Rubiales backed Vilda and only three of the 15 players who launched complaints were included on the Women’s World Cup roster. The federation took moderate steps to improve the conditions of the players, which included a financial package that allowed them to bring family members to the tournament and permission for players with children to spend time with them.
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Vilda is now under fire for his own antics at the World Cup.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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