Members of Spain’s men’s national soccer team issued a statement on Monday condemning the behavior of provisionally suspended federation president Luis Rubiales.
“We want to reject what we consider unacceptable behavior on the part of Mr. Rubiales, who has not been up to the level of the institution he represents,” the statement from joint captains Álvaro Morata, César Azpilicueta, Rodrigo Hernández and Marco Asensio reads on the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) website.
“We firmly and unequivocally stand on the side of the values that this sport represents. Spanish football must a driving force for respect, inspiration, inclusion, and diversity and must set an example with its behavior both on and off the field.”
The statement also congratulates the triumphant Spanish women’s team at the Women’s World Cup last month, describing the squad’s win as “a historic milestone filled with significance that will mark a before and after in Spanish female soccer, inspiring countless women with an invaluable triumph.”
Rubiales’ unwanted kiss on Spanish forward Jennifer Hermoso after the team’s victory in the Women’s World Cup sparked condemnation in Spain. Rubiales has been provisionally suspended by FIFA for 90 days while a disciplinary investigation takes place.
In their statement, the Spanish men’s captains go on to express their “regret” that the ongoing saga has “tarnished” the success of La Roja.
The statement closes by saying the men’s team will now “focus on sporting matters” ahead of the upcoming games against Georgia and Cyprus.
The Spanish Court of Arbitration in Sport (TAD) agreed to open a case against Rubiales but rejected the government’s argument that his offenses were “very serious,” preventing his immediate suspension and forcing ministers to ask the tribunal to do it instead.
Hundreds have turned out in protest against Rubiales. Spain’s women’s team has refused to play until Rubiales is removed. Hermoso herself reiterated that she did not appreciate or consent to the kiss.
Spain’s men’s team faces Georgia in Tbilisi and Cyprus in Granada, Spain, on September 8 and 12 respectively in the upcoming round of European Championship qualifiers.