Spain's Jenni Hermoso says she's 'victim of assault,' entire national team refuses to play

Spain’s Jenni Hermoso says World Cup kiss was ‘assault.’ Team boycotts

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Jenni Hermoso said she felt she was the victim of an assault after Luis Rubiales groped and kissed her on the medals podium following the World Cup final, and she and her teammates said they will not play again until federation officials are gone.

In a statement issued Friday, Spain’s all-time leading scorer flatly refuted Rubiales’ claims the kiss was consensual and that she initiated it. She also said Spain’s federation pressured her to release a statement, and has been contacting her friends and family to try and reach her.

“I want to reiterate that I did not like what happened,” Hermoso said in her statement. “I felt vulnerable and was a victim of assault, what happened was sexist, impulsive, out of place, and non-consensual.”

In a separate statement, Hermoso and her World Cup teammates said they will “refuse to compete until the team’s leaders resign.” That includes Rubiales, whose refusal to resign Friday as federation president could cost the World Cup champions their first Olympic appearance. More than 50 other current and former players also signed the letter.

OPINION: Spain’s Luis Rubiales didn’t ‘do the right thing’ and resign when asked. Now what, FIFA?

Spain’s next official game is Sept. 21 against Sweden in the Nations League, which is being used to determine which two European teams join host France at next summer’s Paris Olympics.

The four group winners advance to the Nations League semifinals, with the finalists qualifying for Paris. If France makes the Nations League final, the team that wins the third-place game would get Europe’s last spot.

Spain is in a group with Sweden, which finished third at the World Cup, Switzerland and Italy. That would seem to make the game against Sweden critical for Spain’s hopes of qualifying for its first Olympics.

Spain’s pipeline is so deep it was able to easily replace most of the 15 players who expressed concerns to the federation last September about coach Jorge Vilda and the environment he created. Only three of those players were included on the World Cup roster.

But with so many players saying they will not play, even Spain will have a hard time fielding a team that could compete with Sweden. Patri Guijarro, Mapi Leon and others in the group of 15 were among the additional players who signed the letter.

Support for Hermoso

In her statement, Hermoso said she doesn’t feel it’s her job to ensure federation officials are acting properly. But she said Rubiales’ behavior is just the latest injustice women players have experienced over the years, and she felt empowered to speak out by all the support she’s received.

U.S. women’s co-captain Alex Morgan; Sweden captain Kosovare Asllani; England’s Alex Greenwood; and Norway’s Ada Hegerberg were among those who criticized Rubiales and demanded change. Pau Gasol, who led Spain’s basketball team to two Olympic silver medals and was recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame also expressed support for Hermoso.

And Borja Iglesias, a star on the men’s team, said he will not play for Spain until Rubiales is gone.

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