The Club Has Failed

There is a match this weekend, against Villarreal, but it hardly seems important in the face of a lot more vital things going on in Spanish football. Yes, it is a test for the men’s team against an opponent that will (theoretically) come out to play instead of sit back and kick the crap out of attackers. That is fascinating, but it is not, in the greater scheme of things, particularly important.

Here’s the thing: This statement is a tepid bowl of water, thrown heartily in the face of the very players who just yesterday played the Gamper in front of a strong crowd, winning 5-0. Yesterday! The Spanish squad that won the world cup a week ago was comprised of 9 Barcelona Femeni players and the club has made a point of tweeting out pictures of the 3 members of “las 15” that did not go to the World Cup.

And this morning the club says, in effect, we are disappointed in sexual harassment and assault, but we will demand nothing. It is not our place, the statement effectively says, to ask for changes within the organization to which we belong. Please, do not do bad things, although we will not stop you.

For a club that prides itself on being social conscious and progressive (see countless ad campaigns and mottos scrawled on the collars of jerseys), this is dereliction of duty. For a club whose players have come out in overwhelming support of the victim of this sexual assault–caught on camera in front of millions, replayed across countless media platforms–Barça is acting like they’re talking about a theoretical happening, a rumored event. There is no doubt here, there are no questions, there is simply no room for “well, maybe”.

This is my club. I am a member and have been for 15 years. And my club has a duty to do better, to be better. And it has failed itself, its players, its staff, its members, its community. Look no further than the thread put together by a board member, vice president Elena Fort, who felt she had to speak up on a personal channel about this because her employer so roundly failed her, personally and professionally. Look no further than the outpouring of support for Jenni Hermoso from almost every member of the women’s squad, especially from Mapi Leon, whose principled stand against the federation as part of Las 15 and her subsequent refusal to back down seems especially correct and morally consistent today. Look no further than the support from the men’s captain, Sergi Roberto. Look no further than Borja Iglesias declaring he will no longer be part of the men’s national team. Look no further than the statements from other clubs who didn’t dither, didn’t have mealy mouthed calls for “guaranteeing the safety of women in sport”. What guarantees are there if infractions, if assaults, are simply hand waved away after half-assed apologies and victim blaming speeches? What guarantees if a club cannot even back its own players, current and former, against the most serious of allegations?

And what of when dozens of players–including all 23 World Cup winners–sign a public statement pointing out the utter depravity of the Federation and its president and refusing to play for the team in the future unless changes are made?

Where does the club stand when the safety is compromised? Where does the club stand when national team managers pressure families to make a statement in support of their child’s aggressor? Where does the club stand when the federation makes up an exculpatory statement and puts a player’s name on it without permission? Where does the club stand when the federation unleashes torrents of media abuse on the club’s players for having the temerity to ask for better treatment? For the ability to lock doors in hotel rooms?

You know where they stand: they sit on the fence. They sigh roundly, heavily, and point to mission statements. They gesture timidly at the words of an abuser, hoping the storm will blow over.

This is the imbalance of power that the players face. This is the very thing Las 15 tried to–quietly, behind-the-scenes–fix for themselves and future generations. And then many of them went and won the World Cup anyway.

And the club has failed them completely and utterly. Failed them. Failed us.