Cristiano Ronaldo rape allegation re-emerges as the #MeToo movement enters football

Content warning: sexual assault

The #MeToo movement, which has forced many professions and fields to reflect upon their treatment of women, has again gathered pace as an allegation of rape against one of football’s biggest stars has come to light.

Kathryn Mayorga, a 34-year-old American, alleges that Cristiano Ronaldo raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room on the 13 June 2009. She initially reported the alleged incident to the Las Vegas police in 2009 but failed to name the attacker.

Mayorga then reached an out-of-court financial settlement with Ronaldo and agreed to comply with a non-disclosure agreement. However, lawyers working for the 34-year-old now claim that Ronaldo has not fulfilled one of the terms of the agreement. With the non-disclosure agreement therefore void, Mayorga was able to give an interview to Der Spiegel last weekend, in which she brought the alleged rape by Ronaldo to public attention. She says she was inspired by the countless other women who have spoken publicly about being victims of sexual assault in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

A combative and defensive Ronaldo has since posted a video on Instagram, describing Kathryn Mayorga’s claims as “fake news” and accusing her of using his name to achieve fame.

Ronaldo’s lawyer, Christian Schertz, went on to issue a more formal statement. He said that the Der Spiegel interview is “manifestly illegal and violates the personal rights of our client Cristiano Ronaldo in an extremely serious way”. He went on to describe the interview as “one of the most serious violations of personal rights in recent years”.  His comments come as Las Vegas police announced on Tuesday that they have reopened an investigation originating back to a complaint they received in 2009, involving a woman who alleges to have been raped by Ronaldo.

They said: “As of September 2018, the case has been reopened and our detectives are following up on information being provided by the victim. This is an ongoing investigation and no further details will be released at this time”.

On the night in question, Mayorga said that she had first agreed to kiss Ronaldo only so that he would leave her alone. But the football star continued to pursue her and forced her into having sex. Mayorga told Der Spiegel that after the assault took place “he wouldn’t let me leave again. He wouldn’t let me leave”.

Where Hollywood and the music industry have felt the full force of the #MeToo movement, football – as abundant in wealth, power and masculinity as these two industries – has so far escaped scrutiny. Mayorga states in her interview with Der Spiegel that one of the reasons she came forward with her claim was out of a curiosity to discover if other women have also been assaulted by Ronaldo or experienced sexual assault within the football world. And so, it begs the question, in publicly voicing her claims, will Mayorga empower more women to come forward?

Perhaps the masculinity and sheer wealth and power within the footballing world has so far discouraged women from speaking out. Eni Aluko, the Chelsea and England player, claimed to have been a victim of racist behaviour by the then England woman’s coach Mark Sampson. The Football Association along with the media disregarded her claims, despite a later investigation by a barrister finding that she told the truth.

A dressing room culture that promotes a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy not only discourages women from voicing their experiences but also men, as exemplified by the former football coach Barry Bennell’s conviction for raping and molesting young boys.

Ronaldo continues to vehemently deny Mayorga’s claim. The ongoing investigation may eventually reveal what happened on that night in Las Vegas. Nevertheless, in voicing her allegations publicly, Mayorga has highlighted the damaging inaction of the football world when it comes to allegations that question its reputability.

Image: Themeplus via Flickr 

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