Illustration by Sophie Devaney
Cristiano Ronaldo, the third highest paid athlete in the world, and arguably the greatest soccer player of his generation, has recently been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) has reopened an investigation about a rape allegation against him from June 2009. Katherine Mayorga, the woman accusing Ronaldo, filed a lawsuit against the soccer player on September 27, 2018. She said she was paid $375,000 by Ronaldo and signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) back in 2009. However, her current lawyers found the NDA to be invalid due to the stress she was under at the time.
The alleged rape happened in the early morning of June 13, 2009, at the Palms Palace Hotel in Las Vegas. Ronaldo met Mayorga at a club the night before and invited her back to the hotel, according to a German magazine, Der Spiegel, who broke the story. In one document that contains Ronaldo’s record of what happened, he himself claims that Mayorga “said no and stop several times,” and she has also said that she said “no” multiple times.
Mayorga reported the assault to the police and was examined later that day, but did not name Ronaldo as the assailant at the time. In September 2018 she requested that the LVMPD re-examine her case. Ronaldo has vehemently denied the allegations. He said on Twitter, “I firmly deny the accusations being issued against me. Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in.”
Ronaldo has not seen much change since the story broke regarding support from fans. Lately, there have been more articles published about Ronaldo’s wins and goal scoring than his rape allegation. At a recent game against Manchester United, a team on which Ronaldo played from 2003 to 2009, fans were undeterred from the accusations and even the fact that he is no longer on their team. Fans on both sides cheered for him; Manchester United fans proud of the incredible player that he became during his years on the team, Juventus fans cheering for their superstar. Juventus has continued to back Ronaldo despite the allegations, mentioning his “great professionalism and dedication” and that “The events allegedly dating back to almost ten years ago do not change this opinion [of Ronaldo], which is shared by anyone who has come into contact with this great champion.”
This case is exceptionally poignant in today’s climate. Although the #MeToo movement has been revolutionary, sports is one area where it has not been very prominent. One of many examples, Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins, received hardly any backlash and no suspension from Major League Baseball (MLB) after a woman claimed he assaulted her in a bathroom in 2017. After an investigation which included interviews with twenty individuals, the MLB did not assign any punishment to him claiming a lack of evidence. Ben Roethlisberger, a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was accused of sexual assault by two women, one in 2009 and one in 2010. His punishment was just a four-game suspension.
Athletes should not be allowed to get away with these actions because they are wealthy and famous. With 144 million followers, Ronaldo is now the most followed person on Instagram, so he has an even more substantial impact. If he gets away with this, the people who idolize him would be influenced by his lack of punishment.
These cases, and all the other ones that have been shut down or paid off bring up serious questions for society to consider.
Should people view professional sports players only from the perspective of their playing, or do their actions outside of sports matter too? Where does the support end? Sports fans need to consider who they are rooting for when it comes to players and consider the players’ actions on and off the field.