When the President of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales, kissed Jennifer Hermoso, a star striker for Spain’s national team, who had just won the Women’s World Cup, many Spanish news media condemned his behavior. Most of the mainstream media, including Spaniards on social media, hailed the kiss as evidence of callous disregard for Ms Hermoso and, more generally, of ongoing sexism in football.

Not the radio sports presenter Manolo Lama. Mr Lama said on a popular late-night show on radio station Cadena Cope, “Anyone who’s angry is because they’ve never been kissed.” He used the feminine pronoun for “they” in Spanish.

Earlier, in a post-match interview with Mr Rubiales, also on Cadena Cope, popular sports presenter Juanma Castaño did not question the federation president on the appropriateness of his conduct. When Mr. Rubiales called the kiss “a kiss between two friends celebrating something” and dismissed his critics as “losers,” “idiots,” and “stupid people,” Mr. Castaño laughed and said, “I think the same thing.”

As the chorus of condemnation grew throughout the week following Rubiales’ actions at the World Cup final, it became increasingly difficult to defend the federation president.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez intervened, calling it “unacceptable” that the football boss kissed a player on the lips without her consent. The secretary of the opposition People’s Party, Cuca Gamarra, described the kiss as “shameful”. World Football’s governing body temporarily suspended Mr Rubiales on Saturday. On Monday, Spanish football officials will hold an emergency meeting on the situation.

Since their first comments, both sportswriters have apologized to their audience. Mr Castaño issued a statement last Monday saying he had now realized the kiss was “more than a mistake of no consequence”.

Mr Lama posted an apology of sorts on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, asking for “forgiveness from those I have offended” last Monday. But he didn’t condemn Mr Rubiales, writing of the kiss: “I just think it’s an act born out of euphoria and no malice.”

“But Spain has become a country of inquisitors,” he continued, “anyone who thinks otherwise will be stoned.”

Radio station Cadena Cope did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The kiss has brought the ongoing lively debate in Spain over the treatment of women back to the fore.

Some of Spain’s mainstream conservative news outlets have used the incident to denounce a controversial law passed by Mr Sánchez’s socialist government in August last year. The law classifies all non-consensual sexual acts as rape, but initially included a loophole that allowed some convicted felons to have their sentences reduced.

On Saturday, an editorial in the conservative Spanish newspaper La Razón described the incident as a “national monstrosity” and said the progressivism of Mr Sánchez’s government created an environment that made Mr Rubiales possible. “His vulgar and inappropriate behavior in the final of the Women’s World Cup would have been impossible,” the editorial said, without the protection that the Sanchez administration “provided for his antics.”

The more left-leaning El País have focused on the emergence of a hashtag in support of Ms Hermoso: “se acabó” or “it’s over,” coined by Alexia Putellas, a widely recognized member of the Spanish national team as the best player in the world. An editorial on Saturday said: “Women say enough about abuse of power and Spanish society is on their side.” On Sunday, El País cited the simple statement: “Spain no longer tolerates ‘Los Rubiales’,” which she does not agree with only to Mr Rubiales, but to sexist behavior in general.

Sports newspaper AS, which originally backed Mr Rubiales, has dropped its support for the football boss.

Earlier this week there was a headline accusing Ms Hermoso: “Jenni drops Rubiales.” After much criticism, it kicked off on Saturday with a photo of Mr Rubiales and a more neutral headline in reference to him: “Stricken.”

Some of his colleagues at the Spanish Football Federation are also changing allegiance.

When Mr Rubiales defiantly announced on Friday that he would not give up, he was given a standing ovation by many of his closest colleagues, including Jorge Vilda and Luis de la Fuente, managers of Spain’s women’s and men’s teams.

Hours later, FIFA announced that Mr Rubiales had been banned from football for 90 days, and the entire women’s team, along with dozens of other players, signed a joint statement declaring they would not step onto the pitch to play for Spain, ” if the current coaches continue”.

Mr de la Fuente and Mr Vilda have now distanced themselves from Mr Rubiales, with Mr Vilda saying he regretted his boss’s “inappropriate behaviour”.

Source : www.nytimes.com

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