Sponsors troubled by rape claims

Kathryn Mayorga's attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, speaking during a press conference on Wednesday in Las Vegas, about the rape allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has denied the accusation.
Kathryn Mayorga's attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, speaking during a press conference on Wednesday in Las Vegas, about the rape allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has denied the accusation.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ronaldo's S$1.3b Nike sponsorship may be at risk, Juventus shares dip in lawsuit fallout

MILAN • American sportswear giant Nike says it is "deeply concerned" by the recent rape allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo as shares in Italian champions Juventus fell over 5 per cent on the Italian stock exchange yesterday.

Ronaldo's coach at Juventus, Massimiliano Allegri, has confirmed the forward is "doing well" and is "ready to play" at Udinese in the Serie A today.

But the player's relationship with Nike, a reported lifetime deal said to be worth US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion), is under scrutiny following the decision by Las Vegas police to reopen an investigation relating to an incident in 2009. Former model Kathryn Mayorga filed a lawsuit last week, alleging she had been raped by Ronaldo in a hotel room.

A Nike spokesman told Agence France-Presse: "We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and will continue to closely monitor the situation."

According to Forbes magazine, Ronaldo is one of only three athletes to have been given a lifetime deal with Nike, joining an elite club comprising National Basketball Association icons LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

Another one of the 33-year-old's sponsors, EA Sports, for whom the Portuguese is a leading figure in its phenomenally successful Fifa video game series, also described the allegations as "concerning".

It said in a statement: "We are closely monitoring the situation, as we expect cover athletes and ambassadors to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with EA's values."

Ronaldo's move from Real Madrid to Turin in the summer gave Juventus a huge boost, both on and off the field, as they continue their elusive bid for a first Champions League trophy since 1996.

Shares rose 180 per cent to a record level of over €1.80 (S$2.86) on Sept 20. But yesterday, it dipped to €1.25 by midday on the Milan stock exchange.

Juventus have so far stood behind Ronaldo, with the club issuing their first response to the allegations with a show of support, tweeting on Thursday that he "has shown in recent months his great professionalism and dedication, which is appreciated by everyone".

And, at his pre-match press conference yesterday, coach Allegri revealed his star was "calm" amid the storm of controversy.

"His professionalism and his composure on and off the pitch are not in question," the 51-year-old said.

"I've known Cristiano for three months now and, for over 15 years of his career, he has shown to be a great professional both on and off the pitch."

Portugal coach Fernando Santos has also given Ronaldo his backing even as the player goes on hiatus from the national side for the rest of this year, ruling him out of the next four games.

He insisted: "I know Ronaldo very well and I fully believe his word when he says he would never commit a crime like this."

Mayorga's attorney Leslie Stovall has told reporters that his client suffered years of trauma as a result of the alleged attack, but found the courage to speak out owing to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault at the hands of powerful men.

The 34-year-old, who claims she was pressured into signing a non-disclosure agreement, is said to be seeking at least US$200,000 in penalties and damages.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2018, with the headline 'Sponsors troubled by rape claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe