In her latest Sky Views column, Sky News sports correspondent Martha Kelner examines the ongoing rape allegation aimed at Cristiano Ronaldo…
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most famous athletes in the world. By virtue of that, anyone with an interest in football, or indeed access to the internet, can find out exactly where he will be at least once a week. This Saturday, for example, from around 3pm Italian time he will be at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, where his table-topping Juventus side take on strugglers Empoli.
Until just after 8pm he’ll be on the pitch, in the sleek monochrome dressing room and probably the media mixed zone. This is not a sheep farmer in remotest Greenland but one of the most visible men on the planet. So why is it proving so difficult to serve him with papers for a civil case against him for alleged rape? And why is football seemingly so determined to protect him from the course of justice?
A report in the New York Times last week claimed Juventus are avoiding playing a highly-regarded pre-season tournament in the US, as they have three of the last four years, because they fear the Portugal international could be detained on arrival Stateside. The club denies this, saying they were always going to go to China this summer.
Nevertheless, Ronaldo’s actions since he was accused of raping American Kathryn Mayorga in a Las Vegas hotel room are not suggestive of an individual keen to embrace proper process to clear his name. At first he dismissed it as “fake news” before issuing a statement insisting his “conscience is clear”. The response of those around him, the wider football community and sections of the media, indicate being one of the biggest stars in sport can make you immune from the fallout of being accused of serious sexual violence.
The England international Declan Rice was on the back page of most national newspapers last week because of comments he made on social media four years ago, when he was 15, appearing to celebrate the IRA. On that basis, you would imagine one of the most successful footballers in history being accused of rape would merit at least a footnote in the relentless – and understandable – articles praising him. But no, as the legal case has stalled in America, the allegation against him seems to have been entirely forgotten about. When one female journalist suggested coverage of Ronaldo’s recent performances on the pitch amounted to “blind hero-worship” she received in response threats of sexual violence herself.
Perhaps the historical nature of the allegations has a part to play. It was June 2009 when Ms Mayorga, a former teacher and hostess, first claimed she was raped by Ronaldo after meeting him on a night out. She agreed to go back to his room at the Palms Palace but claims he later sexually assaulted her. Ms Mayorga, who was 23 at the time, reported the alleged incident to Las Vegas police the next day and a medical exam was conducted, although she refused to name the suspect. Eventually Ms Mayorga signed a nondisclosure agreement with Ronaldo’s team in January 2010, receiving $375,000, and police closed the investigation.
But in 2017, inspired by the #MeToo movement, Ms Mayorga waived her right to anonymity after German newspaper Der Speigel made the allegations public. They obtained a trove of information from Football Leaks, the name under which whistleblower Rui Pinto operates, with documents they claim reveal how Ms Mayorga was silenced for so long by an out of court settlement. In a leaked exchange between Ronaldo and his lawyers, according to the documents, the footballer admitted: “She said no and stop several times.”
In October 2018, Ms Mayorga’s legal representatives hired a process server in Italy to locate and confirm Ronaldo’s home address to serve the summons and complaint in person. According to court documents obtained by the Mail Online, from 14 November 2018 to 1 February 2019, the process server attempted to reach Ronaldo at both his home and his soccer club.
Court documents say: “Records go blank when he searches anything for Ronaldo and when it comes to the community, property records have been blacked out or it is as if they do not exist.”
According to the server, because football players are treated like “royalty” in Italy it is nigh on impossible to serve Ronaldo with the papers. In the Italian press, the allegations against him have barely registered on the Richter scale and consequently he has not been asked why the process server is finding it so difficult to locate him. Without any further developments in the legal case it is a difficult story for journalists to wrestle with. But at the very least, the case against him should be at least mentioned occasionally.
If the case is affecting Ronaldo mentally, it is not showing on the pitch. His magnificent hat-trick against Atletico Madrid kept Juventus in the Champions League. The 34-year-old also escaped a ban for his celebration in the second leg, when he grabbed his crotch and thrusted, in response to rival manager Diego Simeone’s similar gesture in an earlier game, when he claimed his team had “cojones” (testicles).
The camera panned to Ronaldo’s girlfriend, Georgina Rodriguez, in the stands and one breathless commentator remarked: “It’s good to be his woman, did you see those earrings?” Ronaldo was fined €20,000 (£17,000) for the celebration but it was mainly greeted with great hilarity from the masses. It is not known how funny Ms Mayorga, who is understood to be suffering from post-traumatic stress, found the whole episode.