We need gender equality and respect in sports

September 08, 2023 - 08:25
The outcome will have significant implications for the treatment of athletes, particularly women, within the Spanish football federation and the wider sports community.


Illustration by Trịnh Lập

By Thanh Nga

President Luis Rubiales of the Spanish football federation has found himself embroiled in controversy due to allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards midfielder Jenni Hermoso. The incident occurred during the live broadcast of the FIFA Women's World Cup, where Rubiales kissed Hermoso on lips after Spain's victory in the final.

Hermoso has consistently stated that the kiss was non-consensual, expressing her discomfort with the incident. In contrast, Rubiales has maintained that the kiss was consensual, offering a different account from Hermoso, her teammates, and the Spanish government who assert that the kiss was unwanted and demeaning.

The allegations against Rubiales raise significant concerns about his conduct and the boundaries that should be observed between individuals in professional settings, particularly in sports.

Regardless of differing interpretations, the incident highlights the crucial importance of consent and respect in all interactions, particularly when it comes to physical contact.

The situation surrounding Rubiales has sparked a national debate in Spain, triggering discussions about women's rights, macho behaviour, and sexual abuse. Numerous government ministers have called for Rubiales to resign, emphasising the need for accountability and the establishment of a safe and inclusive environment within sports.

It is essential to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations and carefully consider the perspectives of all parties involved. Ultimately, it is crucial that any actions taken by sports officials, including federation presidents, align with the principles of equality, respect and fairness.

The outcome of this situation will have significant implications for the treatment of athletes, particularly women, within the Spanish football federation and the wider sports community. This serves as a reminder of the ongoing need to address issues of sexism, harassment, and power imbalances in sports, and to strive towards creating an environment where all athletes can compete and thrive without fear of mistreatment.

Furthermore, the differing perspectives regarding the consent of the kiss underscore the importance of consent in all interactions, particularly within professional settings. Consent is a fundamental principle that should be respected and upheld in all relationships and contexts, including sports.

The calls for Rubiales to resign stem from the belief that his behaviour undermines the principles of equality, respect and fairness that should be upheld within the Spanish football federation and the broader sporting community. The demand for accountability and the creation of a safe and inclusive environment for athletes drives these calls for action.

In the context of the incident involving President Rubiales and player Hermoso, some individuals may perceive Rubiales' actions as displaying macho behaviour. This interpretation might stem from the power dynamics at play, where Rubiales, as the president of the football federation, is perceived as exerting his authority over Hermoso.

Discussions around macho behaviour often intersect with broader conversations about gender equality, consent and respect. The incident has brought these issues to the forefront, prompting a critical examination of power imbalances and appropriate conduct within the realm of sports.

The decision by Hermoso and 80 other footballers to refuse a call-up to the national team if the current management board of the Spanish Football Federation remains in place highlights the gravity of the situation and the discontent among players.

The suspension of President Rubiales by FIFA for 90 days demonstrates the seriousness of the case and the need for a thorough investigation. However, it is worth noting that Rubiales has not given his resignation, which has sparked widespread outrage and further intensified the debate surrounding his actions.

The decision by a Spanish sports court to investigate Rubiales for the controversial kiss adds another layer to the ongoing legal proceedings. He has expressed his intention to defend himself and prove the truth, underscoring his determination to address the allegations against him.

The outrage and attention surrounding this case reflect the broader societal concern regarding issues of consent, respect and gender equality. The response from the players and the ongoing legal actions highlight the importance of holding individuals accountable for their behaviour and upholding the principles of fairness and dignity within the sports community.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez lauded the female players' protest over the misconduct with midfielder Hermoso, describing it as a lesson of equality between men and women.

"Our players have won twice: first on the pitch, and now in giving a lesson to the world, a lesson of equality between men and women," Sanchez said.

It is hoped that the investigation and legal process will be conducted with integrity and transparency, and that the outcome will contribute to the ongoing efforts to ensure the wellbeing, respect and dignity of athletes within the realm of sports. VNS