Jenni Hermoso and Spain’s entire World Cup-winning team, plus 33 additional players, are refusing to return to the national team without a leadership change.
In a letter released Friday, the players came together to ask for “real changes, both sporting and structural,” to the national team, including the removal of the “current leaders.” Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish national federation (RFEF), refused to resign earlier in the day despite the growing backlash against him after his unsolicited kiss of Hermoso at the World Cup final.
In a defiant speech delivered Friday, Rubiales promised to “fight to the end” rather than step down from his post. He also claimed his kiss of Hermoso was “consensual,” which Hermoso disputed in the letter.
“I want to clarify that at no time did I consent to the kiss he gave me and in no case did I seek to lift the president,” she said. “I do not tolerate my word being questioned, much less that words are invented that I have not said.”
Her final remark refers to the statement issued in her name by the Spanish federation in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup final on Aug. 20, which referred to the kiss as a “mutual gesture.”
Hermoso’s World Cup teammates back her up in the letter. So do “Las 15,” the group of 15 players who protested the national federation who protested against the national team environment ahead of the tournament.
The players “want to express their firm and resounding condemnation of behaviors that have violated the dignity of women,” they say in the letter.
Among those who signed the letter are World Cup stars Alexia Putellas, Irene Paredes, Aitana Bonmatí, as well as “Las 15” members Patri Guijarro, Mapi León and Clàudia Pina, all of whom also voiced their support of Hermoso on social media.
“From our union, we want to emphasize that no woman should feel the need to respond to the forceful images that the whole world has seen and of course, they should not be involved in nonconsensual attitudes,” the players continued.
The players also “expect forceful answers from the public powers so that the actions such as those contained do not go unpunished.” They finish their letter by asking for “real changes” to the national team so the program can continue to grow.
Rubiales is expected to be suspended as the Spanish government investigates the incident. FIFA, meanwhile, opened up an investigation of its own on Thursday.
“It fills us with sadness,” the players said in their letter, “that such an unacceptable event is managing to tarnish the greatest sporting success of Spanish women’s football.”