Spain soccer fallout from Luis Rubiales refusing to resign: Spanish coaches quit, NWSL teams show support

Support for Spain forward Jennifer Hermoso is pouring in after Spanish football president Luis Rubiales refused to resign following his forced kiss on the player during the 2023 World Cup medal ceremony. Reaction to Rubiales’ action on the podium and behavior during the final has come into headlines after additional footage of him grabbing his crotch while in the box suite alongside Queen Letizia of Spain and FIFA President Gianni Infantino also surfaced.

Rubiales and the federation released video and announcements that falsely attached Hermoso’s name to apologies. Representation from Hermoso’s player union and agency released statements saying that they would be responsible for her interests and be the reference as her spokespeople moving forward. The pressure for action against Rubiales has increasingly built since the World Cup final, with calls for his resignation as an eventual consequence. 

The federation held an emergency meeting where many thought the Spain boss would finally quit as earlier reports stated that he would resign at the meeting. Instead, Rubiales doubled down and declared four consecutive times “I will not resign!” to the applause within the room. In his long-winded speech, he projected himself as the victim of a witch hunt and blamed “false feminism.” He then extended a new four-year contract to Jorge Vilda at €500,000 per year, despite a previous player strike under the coach’s tenure. 

On Saturday morning, FIFA provisionally suspended Rubiales, pending an investigation. Additionally 11 coaches from the women’s team resigned, specifically citing not only Rubiales but the fact that several of the female members of the staff were forced not only to attend Friday’s meeting, but to sit front and center during Rubiales’ speech.

Multiple Spain national team and domestic club players, current and former, have reacted and posted support of Hermoso. Here are some of the reactions to Rubiales speech:

Spain women’s players

Spain women’s national team: Spain’s Player Association have released a letter signed by all 23 World Cup champions. Within the letter they reiterate support for Hermoso and highlight further action the players will take moving forward while Rubiales continues to hold office, such as refusing to play.

“After everything that happened during the World Cup award ceremony, we want to state that every player that has signed this statement will not go back to the national team under the current leaders.”

The letter is signed not just by the World Cup champions but also dozens of footballers across Spain. Others are being called to add their names to the letter if they wish to do so. Overall, over 50 players have signed onto the pledge. 

“The players of Selección Española Femenina de Fútbol, world champions and other soccer players, in support of Jenni Hermoso, express their firm condemnation of behaviors that have violated the dignity of women. The statement is open to footballers who want to join”

Jenni Hermoso: Within the open letter issued by the Players Association, Hermoso herself clarifies and addresses false statements previously placed on her behalf.

“I want to clarify that, as seen in the images, at no time did I consent to the kiss that he gave me and, of course, in no case did I lift the president,” said Hermoso. “I do not tolerate my word being questioned and much less that they invent words I never said.” 

Hermoso also released a full statement of her own alongside the Players Association, where she detailed her experiences on the podium with Rubiales and the aftermath of seeing her name used in false statements. In it she explains how there are ongoing legal processes and Rubiales’ actions have distracted from the players World Cup celebration.

“Sadly, the ability to celebrate that has been cut short. While it is true that I do not want to interfere with the multiple ongoing legal processes, I feel obliged to report that Mr. Luis Rubiales’ words explaining the unfortunate incident are categorically false and part of the manipulative culture that he himself has generated.”

“Las 15”

In September, 15 players now referred to as “Las 15,” tried to address issues about Vilda with the federation privately. The players, many on FC Barcelona, had a private email turned around on them and were outcasted by the federation over the last year. In the build-up to the World Cup, some players were granted individual meetings to smooth things over, and some eventually were named to the 2023 World Cup roster. Several have come out with statements of support for Hermoso in response to Rubiales remarks

Aitana Bonmati: Bonmati was one of “Las 15” and went on to win the 2023 World Cup Golden Ball. She took to social media to support Hermoso.

“There are limits that cannot be crossed and we cannot tolerate this. We are with you mate.”

Patri Guijarro: Another of the 15 players who tried to confront the federation with concerns, she was not selected to the 2023 World Cup roster, opting to stand with the initial player protest.

“It’s over. With you Jenni Hermoso. Unfortunate to reach this point to believe that the complaints from months ago were real.”

Alexia Putellas: The two-time Ballon d’Or winner was away from competitive play and recovering from an ACL injury when “Las 15” attempted to enact change with the federation. She recovered in time to make the World Cup roster, and was seen celebrating with Hermoso in World Cup victory celebrations as the duo swapped jerseys. The player received some criticism online for not being more publicly vocal in the initial protest, despite releasing her own statements and supporting the movement and players in the background. 

“This is unacceptable. It’s over. With you partner, Jenni Hermoso.”

Mapi Leon: She was also left off the World Cup roster as one of the 15 players in protest. The Uefa Champions League winner and FC Barcelona defender provided the lengthiest statement on social media.

“It has not been necessary to spend a lot of time to see that what was demanded a few months ago was not a simple tantrum. The images speak for themselves, and I don’t think there is much more to add. It is unacceptable. For all the women, with you Jenni Hermoso.”

RFEF Coaching staff support players

Women’s senior and youth coaches: On Saturday 11 coaches issued a statement announcing their resignation and extended full support to the players in their ongoing protest. 

Multiple coaches are members of the senior staff under Jorge Vilda and others involved with the youth teams. Within the statement, women staff members state they were forced to sit in the front row, “exposing their image and trying to make society and players understand that they shared the Rubiales’ thesis.”

Spain men’s players

There has been a global reaction to Rubiales’ World Cup actions, and his recent remarks at the emergency federation meeting have sparked more statements of support for Hermoso and calls for his resignation. 

Xavi: The former Spain international, 2010 World Cup champion, and current Barcelona manager addressed the media and stated his support for Hermoso, the team, and condemned Rubiales. During the press conference, he noted that he received seven questions on Rubiales and none about the players and their historic performance during the World Cup.

“I regret that people aren’t talking about the historic achievement of winning the World Cup.”

Iker Casillas: The former Spain goalkeeper and World Cup champion initially posted a short reaction saying “Shame,” but then followed up with a lengthier reaction about how attention has shifted away from the team. 

“We should spend these 5 days talking about our girls! Of the joy they gave us all! To boast of a title that we did not have in women’s football but …”

David De Gea: The goalkeeper also reacted on social media but kept it short in a shot at the President saying, “My ears are bleeding,” while adding a circus tent and theater mask emojis.

Hector Bellarin: The Spanish fullback gave a reaction on his Instagram stories. 

“What is happening is truly shameful. From representing our country with that level of vulgarity, misrepresenting the victim’s statements, and, on top of that, having the audacity to blame her, going on to victimize her for having committed an abuse, are facts that no one would do. 

“How can this go unpunished? Football is a social tool to make advancements and progress, machismo should have no place within this system.  

“The narcissist never believes they have made a mistake, they are able to lie, manipulate the truth & make the victim guilty in order to retain their power over others.”

Borja Iglesias: The Spain and Real Betis forward made perhaps the most impactful statement, announcing in his Instagram stories that he will not play for the national team “until things change and this kind of action doesn’t go unpunished.”


Multiple organizations have put out statements over the week with calls for action and for Rubiales to step down. 

LIGA F: On Wednesday, Spain’s top women’s division released a statement calling for Rubiales’ dismissal, they followed up with a reaction on social media.

“Out of respect for the values of sport. Out of respect for women’s football. Out of respect for the woman. And to the men who fight alongside them. OUT OF RESPECT FOR FOOTBALL. ENOUGH NOW!”

Sevilla FC: The Spanish giants are the biggest and latest club to release a definitive statement that has multiple bullet points of remarks. They include support for Hermoso, and any actions she deems appropriate to take, a rejection of the gestures Rubiales made at the World Cup final, and a call for his immediate resignation. 


The global reaction to Rubiales has been vocal. Many players across women’s soccer teams outside of Spain have responded with statements of support and reaction. 

Caroline Seger and Megan Rapinoe: Earlier in the week Sweden’s captain and the U.S. women’s national team forward star both expressed their dissatisfaction with the events, supported Hermoso and called for change.

Mana Shim: Within the footage of Rubiales’ speech, multiple attendees are seen applauding his remarks and the NJ/NY Gotham FC player Mana posted about the reaction saying, “Rubiales’ refusal to resign is horrifying. 

“But it’s worse to see the men in the room applaud him – and the leaders in this sport who are still silent If we can’t agree to punish sexual misconduct caught on video in front of millions, how can women anywhere in football feel safe?”

Shim has recently returned to playing after stepping away from the game years ago after sustaining multiple forms of abuse by NWSL coaches including sexual misconduct and harassment. She and Sinead Farrelly were players named in The Athletic’s report of sexual coercion and institutional failure. The report led to investigations into widespread abuse across women’s professional soccer in the United States.

Alex Morgan: The USWNT megastar also reacted on social media.

“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.”

Ada Hegeberg: The former Ballon d’Or winner famously stepped away from international play in protest for gender inequality at the Norwegian Football Federation and better conditions. After a five year absence in international play she returned to the national team ahead of the 2023 World Cup. She took to a social media post to further highlight Rubiales’ role in UEFA. 

“This is the @UEFA Vice-President, re-elected in the executive committee earlier this year, dropping that horrendous speech,” she wrote. “If you don’t see the issue, you are part of it. My thoughts with the players who should be celebrating, and with the ones who decided to stay home. Enough.”

Pau Gasol: The most prolific player in Spain’s national basketball history and two-time NBA Champion, posted to social media. He extended support to Hermoso and the entire team saying “With you, Jenni, for you and for all,” before posting a screenshot with a longer message of support.

“Sport should be a vehicle for unity and represents the values that make us a great society,” he wrote. 

National Women’s Soccer League: The NWSL kicked off week 17 of the regular season on Friday and Orlando Pride and San Diego Wave FC payers wore wrist tape with a message of support. Players wrote “Contigo Jenni” (with you Jenni) as they took the pitch.

What’s next

More reactions and statements continue to pour in from Spain and across the globe. There is an expectation that the Spanish government may get involved and call on Rubiales to resign. Rubiales is also Vice President of UEFA, but there has been no formal communication by the governing body on his recent actions or remarks. 

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