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On the Cristiano Ronaldo allegations

The Der Spiegel bombshell raised some questions, specifically, when does it become bigger than a game?

Juventus v BSC Young Boys - UEFA Champions League Group H Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

I don’t believe I’m making a huge, ground-breaking statement when I say that for the last few years the world has been more divided than I can ever remember.

You can see it everywhere, Europe has seen a rise in nationalist sentiment, the United Kingdom actually went through with it, Brexited, and has been dealing with the unthinkable, economical, immigrational and bureaucratic mess that it entailed. The United States ... well, I don’t think it’s even worth getting into that. In fact, just earlier this year, I experienced it in the shape of the Mexican presidential elections.

Presidential elections in any country are always a horrendous experience. The terrible political ads, the non-stop press coverage, social media feeds filled to the brim with awful political memes, the shivers you get down your spine when in the middle of the debates you realize, with utter despair “One of these people is going to be president. Is this really it? Can’t we do better?” And last, but definitely not least, relatives and friends speaking about topics they don’t know a thing about with the self-assuredness of someone with several PhD’s on the matter.

(Listen, Sandra, you failed math in high school several times and majored in Italian Literature. No disrespect, but you’ll forgive me, if I take your scorching hot takes about international fiscal policy with a couple grains of salt.)

I was younger in the last presidential cycle, in 2012. I don’t know if it’s always like this, it probably is. But the thing that shocked me the most was the total and complete lack of coherence in people’s arguments.

I assumed, that people that were staunchly liberal or conservative would stick to those values when they casted their ballot. It seemed logical.

And yet, I witnessed time and time again people failing to do that. I saw people who claim to hate corruption, vote for one of the most corrupt parties in Latin America. People who support abortion and LGBT rights vote for a conservative, religiously influenced party. People, who hate political insiders, vote for a party created by a 64-year-old political lifer, that’s been a member of three different parties. Their reasoning was always the same.

“Well, its different with him.”

“It does matter to me, but in this case, I’m willing to give it a chance.”

“I just hate the other guys more.”

“I don’t really believe in it, but there might be a position for me, so I’m going with the party line.”

Listen, that’s all fine! If you are willing to look past the things you claimed were most important to you and vote for someone that represents the exact opposite view, you should be able to do that.

However, if you do all of those things. You don’t get to claim that you really stand for something. Because when the going got tough, and it was about personal preferences, personal biases or personal gain? When it was about “your guys” against the “others”? You fell apart.

You can see where this is going.

The report released by Der Spiegel this past Saturday brought back to light the incident that took place in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2009 between Cristiano Ronaldo — the marquee signing of the summer, a player that is supposed to usher in a new era of Juventus football — and, the previously-anonymous Kathryn Mayorga.

The story had been talked about in hushed tones in the football world for years but there had never been a full-on journalistic investigation quite like this. The article goes into detail about how the events of that night transpired, as well as first-hand testimony from Mayorga, her family and friends.

The details are, obviously horrific. Not only the rape allegation itself, but the psychological trauma that Mayorga suffered due to the incident.

When something like this comes to light, it becomes pretty damn hard to just “stick to sports.” These are the type of allegations that can and should transcend the sport.

Some of the most brutal parts of the article, make special emphasis of how little to no consequences Ronaldo suffered from this. The payment, meant to keep her quiet? One (!!!) weekly wage check from Real Madrid, at the time. Funneled through a company his lawyers kept for his endorsement money in a tax haven. When the first Der Spiegel article surfaced about the incident in 2017, it became a story, for a day. Quickly, Ronaldo’s lawyers released a statement denying the incident ever happened, Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Bayern Munich in the Champions League and then another against Atlético Madrid. After that, nothing. Even a letter, that Mayorga demanded to be read to Ronaldo, a very mild request to be honest. Even that was most likely taken away from her, as the lawyers called each other Pinocchio when asked if the letter had been read to Ronaldo.

While Ronaldo made football history, year after year, Mayorga suffered from severe depression and suicidal thoughts. There is no better way to put it, than the way her own mother phrases it in the article:

”It’s never left her. Every day, she lives it. (…) There were times when she would call me and his — he would be on a billboard or whatever, and she would just completely disintegrate. Having to walk into a store to get a pint of milk, and you’ve got his picture everywhere. (...) He’s the soccer god that everybody thinks is just perfect and flawless. (...) And she can’t even get out of bed some days.”

In the era of the #MeToo movement, a common argument from people who discredit the victims is that they must be doing it for fame, or money or some sort of personal gain. Or even, that the victim is making the whole thing up to discredit an otherwise honorable man. This has always seemed to me, at best, like a bad faith argument. At worst, victim shaming. But, I get it, it’s easier to fault an anonymous person than to question whether the person you admire is a bad human being. It makes sense to want to sweep things under the rug, nobody wants to be called out about their favorite comedian or actor or, well, football player.

Because, inevitably, it leads to the question of “If I support this person, does that make me complicit?”

It’s not a fair question. It’s loaded, it has nuance, it’s hard and there is no right answer. It requires, real, profound self-examination at yourself, what you believe in and how willing you are to stand up for it. If you take it further, it could lead to a slippery slope. Should I never buy clothes that were made by a company with troubled pasts, like Nike, or pretty much any clothing brand that has used sweatshops? Should I never consume goods from companies that don’t source their products from sustainably sourced materials?

Some people might answer yes. Others would say no.

It’s hard to really be coherent. To have a flawless moral compass. I don’t think anybody’s actions are always 100 percent aligned to what they believe in. It’s impossible! There’s too much nuance in the world, too many variables. Some days you’re just not going to be in the mood, you’ll take the easy way out. I know I have. Everyone has.

It feels especially hard when it comes to sports. The one place where we are supposed to be able to relax, to be free of any deeper meaning. It’s a game, you support one side you root against the other and when it’s done, it’s done. It’s entertainment, it should only be entertainment.

So, what now?

Some people will think that this is all a hoax, that Mayorga just wants to get paid or to get famous, that they should ignore it. Call it ‘Fake News’ and move on.

Some others will be guarded and think that all facts should come out, that it would be rash to call it one way or another. That a court of law should determine what happened.

A minority, I presume, will think that he should be kicked out of the club. Banished due to these allegations, that the crime was too heinous to ever look at Ronaldo the same way.

I talked about being coherent at the beginning of the piece, about sticking with what you believe in even, and especially, if it makes you uncomfortable. And in an effort to be just that, I think Cristiano Ronaldo should be suspended from the club immediately, at the very least until there is a ruling on the ongoing investigation by the Las Vegas PD.

It’s fine if you disagree, hell, I expect many in this community will disagree. While I personally believe in the presumption of innocence, there’s plenty evidence to elicit an investigation, enough proof that something happened, that this should not be swept under the rug.

Will Juventus do it? Probably not, if their early response to the situation is anything to go by. In fact, I’m sure Ronaldo will be back in the starting lineup soon enough and that he will score and that I will feel incredibly, uncomfortably conflicted about it. I don’t yet know how I, and many other Juventus fans, will feel. I am sure, however, that for the first time in my life a Juventus goal will bring me other emotions than pure joy.

To quote my fellow writer here at BWRAO, Hunter: “The player is not the club. And the club is not the player.”

Juventus will continue to go out there, play, win and entertain us.

Cristiano Ronaldo might, or he might not.

And thats fine, it has to be.

There are some things bigger than the game.