The captains of Spain's men's national team condemned the “unacceptable behaviour” of soccer federation president Luis Rubiales in a show of support Monday for the women's World Cup-winning team.
It was the first public statement by the top Spanish players against Rubiales after he kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips without consent after the World Cup final. He also grabbed his crotch in a lewd victory gesture last month in Sydney.
Rubiales has been provisionally suspended by FIFA and is facing a Spanish government case against him for the conduct that prompted a storm of criticism and led to widespread calls for his resignation.
"We want to reject what we consider unacceptable behaviour on the part of Mr Rubiales, who has not lived up to the institution he represents," Álvaro Morata said during a news conference at the national team's headquarters in Madrid.
“We firmly and unequivocally stand on the side of the values that this sport represents. Spanish soccer must be a driving force for respect, inspiration, inclusion and diversity, and must set an example with its behaviour both on and off the field."
Morata read the statement with fellow team captains César Azpilicueta, Rodri and Marco Asensio by his side. The rest of the Spanish players were sitting in the room while the statement was read.
The players said Rubiales' conduct tarnished the women's victory.
“It's a historic milestone filled with significance that will mark a before and after in Spanish women's football, inspiring countless women with an invaluable triumph," they said. "Therefore, we want to express our regret and solidarity with the players whose success has been tarnished."
The players made their comments as Spain's national team began its preparations for upcoming European Championship qualifiers against Georgia and Cyprus. They indicated they would not talk more about the situation involving Rubiales.
“We would like to focus on sporting matters from now on, considering the importance of the challenges ahead," they said.
Spain men’s coach Luis de la Fuente, who applauded Rubiales' diatribe against what he called “false feminists” while refusing to resign, apologized on Friday for having clapped, saying, "I made a human error. It was inexcusable."
Later Monday, a few hundred people protested against Rubiales in Barcelona.