United States women's national team forward Megan Rapinoe said the kiss that Spain football federation chief Luis Rubiales planted on the lips of Women's World Cup champion Jenni Hermoso marred Spain's success and signals a "deep level of misogyny and sexism in that federation and in that man."
Spain's victory over England at the Women's World Cup was overshadowed by the forced kiss during the medal ceremony following the final. After claiming that those who criticized his kiss were "idiots and stupid people," the RFEF president was forced to apologize on Monday.
Immediately after Spain's victory, Rubiales had also grabbed his crotch in a victory gesture. That occurred with 16-year-old Princess Infanta Sofía and Queen Letizia of Spain standing nearby.
Rapinoe, who led the USWNT efforts for equal prize money between the men's and women's teams, and helped the team get a new collective bargaining agreement, better benefits and more equal travel arrangements, said Rubiales' actions signaled deeper problems in Spain.
"There was another picture that signals such a deep level of misogyny and sexism in that federation and in that man [Rubiales] at the final whistle, just grabbing his crotch," Rapinoe said in an interview published on Tuesday in The Atlantic.
"What kind of upside-down world are we in? On the biggest stage, where you should be celebrating, Jenni has to be physically assaulted by this guy.
"It made me think about how much we are required to endure," Rapinoe said. "Think how much that Spanish team had to shoulder: Some of the players who stood up way back last year [to protest treatment by their coach and federation] still aren't on the team.
"Maybe that was something that galvanized them, but you shouldn't have to have that."
The Spain squad was in near-mutiny last year because of some players' complaints about the culture under coach Jorge Vilda, demanding better coaching and preparation to get more out of the team.
Rubiales backed Vilda and only three of the 15 players who complained were included on the World Cup team. The federation did take some steps toward improving the conditions of the players, which included a financial package to allow them to bring family members to the World Cup and permission for players with children to spend time with them.
The Spanish federation announced later on Tuesday that it would hold an emergency Extraordinary General Assembly on Friday to discuss the issue.
"Based on the latest events that took place during the award ceremony of the Women's World Cup won by the Spanish National Team last Sunday in Sydney, the Federation wishes to inform that the internal proceedings of the Federation regarding Integrity issues are open, as well as the rest of the applicable protocols," the statement read.
Asked if Rubiales should resign, Spain's acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez said on Tuesday that it was not his call to make because the RFEF is not controlled by the government. But Sánchez did say that Rubiales' behavior was "unacceptable."
Spain's equality minister Irene Montero said it was an act of "sexual assault." Under a new sexual violence law, the unsolicited kiss, during which Rubiales grabbed Hermoso's face before giving her a kiss on the mouth, could potentially be pursued as a crime.
"What I've realized for a long time is that we're playing two games at the same time," Rapinoe said. "One, we're playing all against each other. And then the other one, we're all playing together to win equality and progress and what we deserve.
"We want these other teams to be paid equally, and to have the resources that they deserve, and to not be subjected to misogyny and racism and sexism.
"If that comes at the expense of our own dominance, yeah, we want that. Maybe that's a novel concept for some people, but it's not for us."
The USWNT exited the World Cup after losing to Sweden in the round of 16, its earliest-ever exit from the competition.
"And I think we've understood for a long time that being one of the best teams, and being one of the teams that [has] been invested in the most -- [although] not enough -- it is our responsibility to continue to push the game forward. And I take a lot of pride in the World Cup being what it is today versus even four years or eight years ago. I take a lot of pride when I see teams speaking up for themselves."
Spain's players union, which Rubiales used to head, issued a statement on Tuesday calling for Spain's Higher Council for Sports, which oversees Spanish sports, to act against Rubiales if he does not step down. The union cited Spain's sports law that sanctions acts that "damage the dignity" of someone or "creates an atmosphere of intimidation" based on unwanted conduct related to gender or race.
"The incident regarding Jenni Hermoso is especially grave since she finds herself in a situation of vulnerability before a person in a position of power," the union said. "A once-in-a-lifetime celebration for the Spanish players has been overshadowed by the improper behavior of the federation president."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.