There has undoubtedly been progress over the past year, but the case of Ronaldo is a massive test of the limits of the #MeToo movement.
How does society reckon with the fact that the third-highest paid athlete in the world might be a rapist, if at all? Are sponsors ready to take action beyond vague expressions of general concern? Are clubs willing to stop signing him? Are fans ready to stop cheering for him?
The answer to the latter three questions should undoubtedly be, “yes.” So far, all are no’s.
I’ve covered many allegations of sexual violence against high-profile athletes over the years, and the amount of evidence against Ronaldo is absolutely staggering already. Calling this another instance of “he-said, she-said” or, as Ronaldo put it, “fake news,” would be drastic misrepresentation. Virtually all of the well-worn excuses that apologists typically use to attack the credibility of sexual assault survivors are not at all applicable here.
For a start, there’s absolutely no question of timing. We know that on June 12, 2009, a then 25-year-old Mayorga met Ronaldo in a Las Vegas nightclub. He was a superstar at 24 years old, about to transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid for a record 94 million euros. Paparazzi photos clearly show the two together.
Her description of the subsequent assault is horrific. According to her recent interview with Der Spiegel, she gave him her number when they met in a VIP section, and then he invited her and her friends to a party in the hotel next door. When she arrived, everyone was in the hot tub, but she didn’t want to go in because she didn’t have a bathing suit. Ronaldo offered her some clothes she could get wet, but as she was changing, he walked in with his penis hanging out of his shorts and “basically … begged [Mayorga] to touch his penis for 30 seconds.” When she denied, he begged her to suck it.
She says he told her, “I’ll let you go if you give me a kiss.” So she did. But when she tried to leave after that, he wouldn’t stop grabbing her. He ended up raping her anally, without a condom or lubricant.
“After he assaulted me, he wouldn’t let me leave again,” she told Der Spiegel. “He wouldn’t let me leave. And he was calling me ‘baby, baby.’ He gave me this look, this guilty look. Almost like he felt bad I don’t remember but I’m pretty sure he said ‘sorry’ or ‘Are you hurt?'”
This is Mayorga’s version of events. The “she said” part of the equation. But where the “he said” usually goes, instead lies a convoluted rat’s nest of denial and admission.
Now, of course, he denies the allegations. However, her account doesn’t differ that much from what Ronaldo admitted to in a document obtained by Der Spiegel. It is an early version of a questionnaire that was sent to Ronaldo by Mayorga’s lawyers when they first contacted him about the allegations in the summer of 2009. In a later version of a similar questionnaire, Ronaldo said the sex between them was consensual, and that Mayorga never seemed upset during their encounter.
But in the earlier version, which was e-mailed between Ronaldo’s lawyers in September 2009, Ronaldo says that Mayorga “said ‘no’ and ‘stop’ several times.”
“I entered her from behind. It was rude. We didn’t change position. 5/7 minutes. She said that she didn’t want to, but she made herself available,” he wrote. “But she kept saying ‘No.’ ‘Don’t do it.’ ‘I’m not like the others.’ I apologized afterwards.”
Ronaldo says in the document that Mayorga didn’t say anything to him about wanting to go to the police. However, he adds, “She complained that I forced her.” He essentially agreed with her story: He raped her anally, and afterwards, apologized.
This week, Ronaldo professed his innocence, and referred to Mayorga as someone “seeking to promote themselves at my expense.”