Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the apologies offered by Luis Rubiales, President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), for giving Spain midfielder Jennifer Hermoso an unwanted kiss on the lips are “not enough.”
Amid widespread criticism of the incident, including from the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE), Sánchez answered questions from reporters on Tuesday and said that “what we saw was an unacceptable gesture.”
“Regarding Mr. Rubiales and all the controversy that has taken place, in the first place I believe that they, the players, they have done everything to win,” Sánchez said.
“But it is true that there has been some behavior, in this case of Mr. Rubiales, which shows that in our country there is still a long way to go in terms of equality and respect and in this equalization of rights between women and men.
“The apologies made by Mr. Rubiales are not enough. I even think that they are not appropriate and that, therefore, Mr. Rubiales needs to continue to take steps to clarify what we all saw,” added Sánchez.
Rubiales and Sánchez met earlier on Tuesday and shook hands when the Spain squad visited the Moncloa Palace – the Spanish prime minister’s residence – to receive the Gold Medal of the Royal Order of Sports Merit.
“The president of the federation is chosen, or fired, by the federation’s members,” Sánchez added in response to a question about whether he would look to remove Rubiales from his post.
“I’ve already said in my first response to your colleagues, that his explanation was insufficient, that Mr. Rubiales has to take more steps to clear up his behavior, which in any light, is unacceptable.
“It doesn’t connect with the majority sentiment of the citizenry, which clearly bets on equality between men and women and which, logically, well we’ve seen his statements of apology, which I don’t know if you’ve all seen it, but I think that they’re insufficient.”
CNN has reached out to the RFEF for comment on Sánchez’s remarks but did not hear back by the time of publication.
On Monday, Rubiales admitted he “made a mistake” by giving Hermoso a kiss on the lips after the 33-year-old had collected her winners’ medal following the Women’s World Cup final victory over England.
Rubiales has faced widespread criticism for the incident, with his behavior labeled “unacceptable” and “simply disgusting.”
“Hey, I didn’t like it, eh,” Hermoso said as she apparently answered questions about the incident in an Instagram live video, a clip of which was shared by Spanish journalist Irati Vida on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Later in the Instagram live video – taken in Spain’s locker room – Hermoso fields a question from another woman: “But what were you doing, sis?” The 33-year-old replies: “But what am I supposed to do?”
On the radio program ‘El Tiempo de Juego’ on Cadena COPE, Hermoso spoke of the kiss on Sunday, saying “she didn’t expect it” but that “it was because of the emotion of the moment, there’s nothing more there. It’s just going to be an anecdote [of the time]. I’m absolutely sure it won’t be blown up more.”
AFE, which seeks to defend the rights of Spanish soccer players, called Rubiales’ actions “lamentable.”
“The physical gestures directed towards any person, in this case a footballer, are never appropriate or acceptable in whichever context without the express consent of the affected person,” a statement from AFE read.
“It’s especially serious given what happened with Jennifer Hermoso who found herself in a state of clear vulnerability before a person in a position of power over her who initiated an approach or realizing a physical gesture.”
The independent body called for authorities to seek legal remedies through the Law of Sport, should Rubiales not resign “immediately.”
The issue has been widely condemned in Spain, including from politicians across the political spectrum.
“We maintain our asking of the resignation of the gentleman who belittled and assaulted a woman. His excuses serve absolutely nothing,” Yolanda Díaz, Spain’s acting second deputy prime minister and leader of the Sumar party, said in a press conference.
Cuca Gamarra, parliamentary spokesperson and secretary general of the Partido Popular, also said: “All institutional leaders should have exemplary behavior and that exemplary nature should be respect towards women and what we saw in that final in this sense was shameful. Only shame comes to my mind, at a minimum.”