Spain’s federal prosecutors announced Monday that they have opened an investigation into Luis Rubiales, the president of the country’s soccer federation, for kissing a player on the lips after the country’s team won the Women’s World Cup earlier this month.
They are investigating the kiss, which player Jennifer Hermoso says was nonconsensual, as “an alleged crime of sexual aggression” and will give Hermoso the option to file a lawsuit against Rubiales, who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. The ordeal has led to Hermoso and her World Cup teammates, along with dozens of other Spanish soccer players, refusing to play for Spain unless Rubiales leaves his post.
Meanwhile, Rubiales’ mother, Ángeles Béjar, has locked herself in a church and declared a hunger strike in support of her son. She told Spanish news agency EFE that she would continue with her strike “night and day” until there’s an end to the “inhumane hounding” of her son.
News of the investigation follows a Saturday decision by FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, to suspend Rubiales from FIFA activities for 90 days, meaning he cannot participate in October meetings or votes on which countries will host upcoming World Cups.
President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales kisses Jennifer Hermoso of Spain during the medal ceremony of FIFA Women's World Cup on Aug. 20 in Sydney, Australia.
Spain’s soccer organization, the Royal Spanish Football Federation, or RFEF, is facing mounting pressure to take action against Rubiales, who is refusing to resign and insists he is the victim of “false feminists” mischaracterizing an innocent moment.
When criticism first began building against him, Rubiales admitted he likely acted inappropriately, saying “I have to apologize,” and, “Probably I made a mistake.” But he now maintains that Hermoso lifted him off his feet after the team’s 1-0 victory over England and moved him “close to her body.” He says he asked Hermoso for a celebratory kiss, and that she said yes.
Hermoso firmly denies Rubiales’ version of events, which he shared before an address to the RFEF on Friday.
“I want to make it clear that at no time did the conversation to which Mr. Luis Rubiales refers to in his address take place, and, above all, was his kiss ever consensual. I want to reiterate as I did before that I did not like this incident,” Hermoso said in a statement Friday.
“I felt vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent on my part,” she continued. “Simply put, I was not respected.”
So far, the RFEF has responded by threatening to sue Hermoso for lying and defamation, even as Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and other politicians across the political spectrum demand Rubiales be held accountable.