Eleven federation staffers resigned in a public letter that condemned the actions of Rubiales and the federation in response to Hermoso’s claims. The letter also noted that during Rubiales’s recent speech defending himself, several female members of the technical staff were forced to stand in the front row give the appearance they supported his claims.
That letter from staffers came just minutes after the RFEF released a lengthy statement in defense of Rubiales, before deleting it later Saturday. In the statement, the RFEF disparaged Spanish national team member Jenni Hermoso as a liar and broadly accused Hermoso and her supporters of trying to “distort reality” by asserting Rubiales kissed her without consent.
“We must state that Mrs. Jennifer Hermoso lies in every statement she makes against the President,” Spain’s soccer federation, the statement said before it was deleted.
The RFEF has threatened legal action over the accusations and steadfastly supported Rubiales, who has refused to resign despite international outrage over the World Cup incident.
On top of Rubiales’s suspension by FIFA, the organization’s Saturday decision bans both Rubiales and the RFEF from contacting Hermoso. FIFA previously announced disciplinary action against Rubiales on Thursday.
In statements released Friday, the midfielder said she “never consented to the kiss he gave me,” adding that she and her family had come under pressure to publicly support Rubiales.
Dozens of players on Spain’s women’s team have said they will refuse to play further matches until the Spanish federation, RFEF, removes the president from his post.
Rubiales also faced criticism for grabbing his crotch at the end of the World Cup final while Spain’s Queen Letizia and Princess Sofía, 16, stood nearby.
Rubiales told an emergency meeting of the Spanish federation on Friday that he would not resign, claiming that he was being attacked by “false feminists” and maintaining that the kiss was “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual.” He also suggested that Hermoso had initiated the kiss by lifting him off the ground, and had agreed to the kiss when he asked her.
“As seen in the footage, I never consented to the kiss he gave me, and of course, I never intended to lift the president in the air,” Hermoso responded in a statement released by the player’s union Futpro. “I do not tolerate that my word is distrusted, and even less so, the invention of words I never said.”
The RFEF, however, offered its backing to Rubiales, saying in a statement: “The evidence is conclusive, Mr. President has not lied.” The body threatened legal action over “lies” against Rubiales and said players had an “obligation” to play if selected for the national team.
Spanish politicians, professional clubs and various other names from the soccer world spoke out against Rubiales’s conduct, including Spanish national team members on the men’s squad.
Borja Iglesias, a forward for Spain’s men’s national team, tweeted he was “sad and disappointed” and that he would not return to the team “until things change.”
Luis de la Fuente, coach of Spain’s men’s national team who could be seen applauding during Rubiales’s speech Friday, said in a statement: “I wish to express my absolute repulsion to any act of sexist violence. There is no room for tepid stances when confronted with this type of situation.
“I unreservedly condemn the misguided and out-of-place behavior of the President of the RFEF during the aforementioned events. The actions of Luis Rubiales did not respect the minimum protocol that should be followed in these acts of celebration, and are neither edifying nor appropriate for a person who was representing the whole of Spanish soccer. He himself has publicly acknowledged the impropriety of his behavior. I hope that this unpleasant episode comes to an end as soon as possible for the good of Spanish soccer and that the competent bodies resolve and take the relevant decisions as quickly as possible.”
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez described Rubiales’s actions as “unacceptable,” earlier this week, while deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz tweeted: “Impunity for sexist actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office.”
Víctor Francos, secretary of state for sports and head of Spain’s Higher Council for Sports, said Friday the government intended to file a lawsuit against Rubiales for a “very serious offence,” according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
“I believe that we are ready for this to be the #MeToo of Spanish football, and for this to be a change,” he said.
Spanish soccer club Real Madrid said in a statement Friday that it supported Francos’s decision, while FC Barcelona described Rubiales’s conduct as “totally improper and inappropriate.” Xavi, Barcelona’s coach and one of Spain’s most decorated players, also weighed in strongly in support of Hermoso.
U.S. player Alex Morgan said she was “disgusted” by the incident and tweeted her support for Hermoso and the Spanish players.
“Winning a World Cup should be one of the best moments in these players’ lives but instead it’s overshadowed by assault, misogyny, and failures by the Spanish federation,” she wrote.
Beatriz Rios contributed to this report.