Will #MeToo have a voice in sports?
Last week, well-respected German news outlet Der Spiegel dropped a stunning headline: “The Woman Who Accuses Ronaldo of Rape." In light of the past year of allegations against powerful men in various industries, this is sadly not a shocking headline, but it is shaking soccer fans across Europe and around the world to their core. Der Spiegel’s report is an in-depth account of the events in June 2009; there are communications between Cristiano Ronaldo and his lawyer, first-hand accounts from Kathryn Mayorga, the titular woman, and quotes from the police report filed after the incident nine years ago. There is even record of a $375,000 settlement from Ronaldo to Mayorga a few months after he allegedly raped her in his penthouse in Las Vegas.
On the next day, Mayorga filed a police report in Las Vegas that recounted the horrifying experience: Ronaldo himself is reported as understanding her pleas to stop multiple times, which is the least insidious aspect of Der Spiegel’s report on the case. The police took DNA evidence, a statement from Mayorga, and cataloged her injuries, which included bruising to her rectum. A demeaning police officer — who reportedly said, “You getting an attorney, that doesn’t look good” — took her statement, and by the end of it, she asked the officer to do nothing. A criminal case was never opened, but a civil agreement was arranged between Mayorga’s and Ronaldo’s lawyers in the early winter of the next year. Mayorga was paid $375,000 — a week of Ronaldo’s wages — on the condition of her silence. Ronaldo didn’t even show up to the arbitration meeting.
Nine years later, on Sept. 27, the criminal case was reopened by the Las Vegas Police Department on account of Mayorga filing a lawsuit against Ronaldo with rejuvenated strength and willingness to testify, and thanks to Nevada’s statute of limitations law, the criminal case will be allowed to progress as the assault was documented the same night as it occurred. For his part, Ronaldo responded in an Instagram Live video that the allegations were “fake news.” It’s unlikely for there to be more news on the front of a criminal case against Ronaldo until the investigation starts to wind down.
However, one thing about these allegations against Ronaldo that draws a stark difference between allegations against former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, or other powerful men of industry is the lack of general social outrage that is so common of the #MeToo movement; I’ve found myself telling more people about Ronaldo’s allegations than not. With the confirmation of Kavanaugh and a tempering outrage around Ronaldo, the #MeToo movement is approaching its moment of reckoning.
There is a long history of sexual assaults in sports, but the male-dominated industry has often swept these serious allegations under the carpet while the accused continue to make millions and bask in fame. In 2003, Kobe Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee and settled with the accuser out of court. He continued his storied NBA career for 13 more years, is still one of the most revered basketball players ever, and earlier this year won an Academy Award. While there is still discourse about these events of Bryant’s past, it are often to remind people of them.
The industries the #MeToo movement is fighting are not just the supposed liberal havens of Hollywood, but the male-dominated bastions of athletics and politics, among others. What is the future of the movement if we can change ourselves, but not them?
A wise person once told me that we want evil to take an unordinary shape. We want to believe aliens will destroy the world, or that there’s a meteor that will turn the world into some sort of ectoplasmic mush. We don’t want to believe that extraordinary evil can take an ordinary shape — our shape.
The hard work of the #MeToo movement is yet to come. There will be a reckoning for the powerful men in these male bastions. There will be a reckoning for the athletes, the politicians, the CEOs. There will be a reckoning for the 17-year-old boys with immense wealth and future prosperity: the Ronaldos and the Kavanaughs. But first, #MeToo must reckon with its own diminishing returns, and we as a society must reckon with what we choose to see and what we choose to ignore. A choice is coming, and the good fight must be fought. Let us hope it starts with some good news, come the next few months.